It’s Kusum Soni’s inclusive embrace that earned her this year’s Betty Urquhart community service award from the University of the Fraser Valley.
A guiding light in a foreign land, Soni ties together vulnerable communities with compassion. She instills confidence through programming for seniors at Mission Community Services, educating immigrants and other vulnerable elders on building positive attitudes by making action plans for food and exercise, and more. Her vision has widened the scope and range of Mission’s Diwali celebrations over the last five years, helping the event to grow from 30 participants to 800 and 16 partners, including the UFV Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies.
Though funding is available for catering, Soni’s philosophy of inclusion stretched to bring Rotarians into the Sikh temple to help cook meals.
“Socializing with each other tears down walls.”
That connection between food and community is carried on by Soni’s own hands when she creates traditional Indian dishes for two dozen women at Abbotsford’s Warm Zone, a Home, Healing and Space program and a day shelter for women who are living and working on the streets.
What began as a monthly venture quickly evolved into a weekly institution.
“The meal was just a medium to talk to the women, but it took almost a year to earn their confidence. I wanted to know what happened in their life, and eventually they became a part of mine.”
She received her award June 13, during UFV’s morning convocation ceremony.