Hello Chestermere and Strathmore readers
Happy Sikh Heritage Month! I am so honoured to mark this month as we reflect on the amazing contributions people of Sikh Heritage have made to our beautiful province and our country. We are so fortunate to celebrate so many wonderful festivals and ceremonies of those who have helped to build the beautiful tapestry that is Alberta.
Sikhs celebrate Vaisakh on the 13-14th of April to celebrate Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Guru of the Sikhs, WHO established the Khalsa Panthon this day. For Hindus, Baisakhi is their New Year. Sikh people have been calling Alberta home since the early 1900s. We are also heading into Ramadan, a time of spiritual reflection, worship, and Muslims’ devotion. Ramadan this year is from April 13-May 12. Fasting begins at dawn and lasts until sunset. It is believed that the first verses of the Quran were revealed at this time to the Prophet Mohammed. It is a time of joy and time spent with family.
Our constituents are so committed to each other; and I was honored to spend time with all of you, mostly on zoom. I enjoyed speaking with Michelle at Marigold Library in Strathmore; she informed me about an amazing program running at the Library. Thank you, Michelle, for sharing the following information.
“Not everyone knows that staff in some public libraries proctor exams, but those who are studying to get better jobs or to do better at their jobs are certainly grateful to have this affordable service at a convenient place – the Public Library.”
“My sources for explaining how this works and why it is important are two forward-thinking Directors of Public Libraries in Marigold Library System: Rachel Dick Hughes, Director of Strathmore Library, and Sarah McCormack, Director of Banff Library. Both Directors are champions of helping patrons and municipal residents succeed through skill and education attainment.
I was impressed to read that Strathmore Library staff invigilated 147 exams in 2019. Rachel explains how it works at Strathmore Library:”
Students who participate in distance learning opportunities often need their exams invigilated by a proctor or invigilator. These exams can range from Grade 12 diploma exams to University exams. Libraries are one of few organizations in rural municipalities that can provide this service. Library staff works together with the student to complete any paperwork required by the school. Then we arrange a time for the student to come and write their exam. Exams can range from 2-6 hours. The Library provides a quiet space where the student will not be interrupted, and if the exam is online (which it is most of the time now), the Library provides a computer for the student to use. Sometimes different institutions require installing specific software for the exams, and our staff spends time ensuring everything is set up before the student’s appointed exam time. When the student arrives, library staff check their photo ID and ensure that everything is in order. They go over any instructions the institution provides. They monitor the student throughout the exam, ensuring that the technology is working correctly and that the student is not accessing anything forbidden during the exam.
At the Strathmore Library, we charge a $40 fee per exam to cover the investment of staff time and library space required. In 2019, we invigilated 147 exams. Now that Bow Valley College is closing its doors in Strathmore, the Library is the only location where local students can invigilate their exams. Their alternative is to go to the city, requiring typically an hour of travel each way, and pay nearly double the fee to write their exam at the Bow Valley College downtown campus. We have many students studying while working full-time. One benefit to having their exams invigilated at the local Library is that we can work around their schedule, not requiring that they take time off from work to write an exam. Large colleges and universities can sometimes be faceless, inflexible institutions. Having a local library involved makes the exam process simpler, more accessible, affordable, and less intimidating for our students.
Sarah McCormack also speaks passionately about why proctoring exams is so important at Banff Public Library:
This is a very important service to our community, especially as, to my knowledge, we are the only ones doing it closer than Calgary. We have had students come from Calgary to write here. We keep the costs low as we do not sit in the exam room, and studies are already costly for individuals. While it has been stated that online learning is essential, the infrastructure like allowing us to proctor exams for these online learners hasn’t always been in place. I hope that if there is another lockdown, we can provide this service as students need to write their exams to move forward in their studies and careers.
Both Directors lobbied to be allowed to provide proctoring services by appointment. They were convinced that this was very safe with one-on-one appointments and safe distancing. Every health protocol is being followed to the letter.
Thank you, Michelle, for this incredible information that is building capacity in our cities and towns and will be crucial to economic recovery as we come out of COVID
I want to chat with you about a beautiful project that is going on in Chestermere. Thank you to Shannon Dean at Camp Chestermere, the Rotary, Sikh Heritage Alberta (SHAB), and Sikhs doing Seva (SDS) for this thoughtful program that helps many in our community.
Thank you, Isha, for the following write-up.
Sikhs Doing Seva (SDS) is a volunteer organization based in Calgary, founded on one of the main principles of Sikhism, Seva (selfless service). Founded in late 2020, their first event included a Holiday Food & Toy Drive. During this, even SDS managed to raise $4200 and 2,000 pounds of food. SDS is also spearheading an inventory optimization project at Dashmesh Culture Centre (DCC).
Sikh Heritage Alberta (SHAB) was founded a little over a year ago and is a non-profit, community-based organization aiming to uncover and present untold stories of the Sikh pioneer community. We strive to increase community interconnectedness and integrate cross-generational Sikh Values. Over the past year, we have collaborated with Sikh Heritage organizations across Canada to work together on events.
Together we have been working on the Alberta South Asian COVID-19 Relief Project. The planning for this project began in early January. Our goal was to help educate the community on COVID-19 and mask-wearing. We acknowledge that there are countless barriers, including language and accessibility barriers, which can hinder the community’s ability to accurately receive public health information. This is why we have designed a 3D printed hook that makes it easier for individuals to wear a 3-layer mask with their religious wear. At the end of January, we started handing out these hooks as well as hand sanitizer and mask packages. We have been going to Dashmesh Culture Centre every two weeks to educate and distribute these supplies. Recently we have begun helping our seniors book their vaccination appointments as well. The response from the community and media has been fantastic.
This coming Saturday, April 10th, we plan to extend our outreach to the Chestermere community. From 12 pm-4 pm, we will be handing out 3D printed mask hooks and disposable masks to those who need them (free of cost). Everyone who sees a need for these hooks will be offered them. Our volunteer teams are looking forward to this wonderful opportunity to provide some COVID-19 education, help reduce barriers that many minority communities face and be one step closer to keeping everyone safe and healthy during this pandemic.
Sikh Heritage Alberta
Finally, Alberta is leading the country in our COVID-19 response. We are rolling out vaccines quicker than other provinces. We have administered over 600,000 doses as of March 30, which means about 14.2% of Albertans have received their first dose. For those who are over the age of 70, more than 60% have been vaccinated. We are currently vaccinating those 65 and older and those who are at high risk. Our issues lie in the number of vaccinations that we have been receiving, and I know that there has been a growing waiting list and growing frustrations, but please know that we are getting them to communities as fast as we are receiving them. Thank you to all of our local pharmacies that are doing a fantastic job vaccinating our constituents. We have very high numbers of cases, especially in Chestermere-Strathmore, and I know that you are exhausted from dealing with COVID, but we need to hang in there a little bit longer. Let’s keep each other safe, and remember that you are protecting each other, especially our vulnerable, from exposure every time you wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep your distance. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, we have to get there, and I know we can do that together.
As always, we love to hear from you!