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by Alejandra Bravo
“It’s very beneficial for people to learn where they can raise their issues. People and communities always have concerns. The residents of this area should know what their government is doing and how they can influence their decisions.”
Pushpmit Bhatia, Building Blocks leader
Pushpmit Bhatia was initially hesitant about being identified as “a leader” by Centre for Information and Community Services (CICS), a Building Blocks partner. Unsure about training others, she has surpassed all expectations.
Through the Building Blocks program she offers training on how governments make decisions and how to actively participate in that process. Her goal was to train 60 community members in Markham and Richmond Hill. She has so far trained 128, and has no intention of stopping. Pushpmit, working out of the Welcome Centre in Markham, has shown determination as she finds new ways to engage residents in civic life. She was just waiting to be unleashed on Markham and Richmond Hill!
No one showed up at the first meeting she organized. So Pushpmit tried a new approach: go to where the people are. In June she went to a Tamil Seniors’ group to present “Know Your Local Government.” This time she found success. Through a translator, Pushpmit trained 70 people that day. Her goal was to make them “aware of their rights and roles as residents of York Region.” This taste of success helped to increase her sense of confidence and to seek out new audiences. She says of the experience, “I certainly learned a lot. It taught me to be creative, loud, pleasant, as well as persistent to accept last minute challenges and be on the top of those challenges.”
A leader is born
Pushpmit has gone on to train newcomers enrolled in English language instruction, including on Canada Day, “the perfect day to learn about how governments make decisions.” Since then, she has also trained a combined group of Chinese and South Asian seniors from Markham and Richmond Hill, who learn side by side through volunteer interpreters. Her reflection on the experience? Civic literacy training is essential for people to be fully participating members of their community and to make their issues and voices heard.
What we learned delivering the Building Blocks program
On September 6, Markham residents are getting on the bus for a guided tour of “important government sites.”
This innovative tour has grown out of civic literacy training Centre for Information and Community Services (CICS) has delivered in the community. Driven by Pushpmit’s energy and commitment, residents will visit Markham Civic Centre, Toronto City Hall, Queen’s Park and more. For most this will be the first time they will see those hot spots of political power.
Building Blocks is in part funded by