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Volunteer Central’s Volunteer of the Month – Siham Ahmed

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Written by Ryan Charles Parker

The world needs rich people. Not rich in material wealth, but people who are rich in character and compassion. Those who have faced down challenges and overcome difficulties and use them constructively. People that can help. People that can help others learn how to help themselves. People like Siham Ahmed.

A refugee from Somalia, Siham knows what it is like to find hope in a new land. As a matter of fact, she was a client of the Central Alberta Refugee Effort (C.A.R.E.) before she volunteered for the organization. As she told me, “yes, I use C.A.R.E.’s services. I attend ESL courses. I accessed interpreter myself when I first came to Canada.”

Now she is paying it forward. Volunteer Program Coordinator at C.A.R.E., Elzbieta Sawicka said about Siham, “Siham is a dedicated volunteer with C.A.R.E.”

Especially adept at learning and teaching languages, her knowledge of the English language allows her to help in many areas of the Central Alberta Refugee Effort. She explained to me, “as a general volunteer, I help at the reception, answering the phone and referring clients to staff. As (an) interpreter, I help clients with limited or no English to communicate with others during their appointments.”

 Sawicka echoed the value that Siham brings to the organization: “As she speaks several languages, she is a very vital part of our translation/interpretation support services.”

And, as previously mentioned, she is greatly appreciated at C.A.R.E..  As Sawicka says, “Siham is friendly and curious to learn new things. She is very motivated to learn new skills that will help her integrate into Canadian society and find her future career. It’s a pleasure to have her around.”

What does Siham get out of volunteering at C.A.R.E.? “I volunteer because I can meet people, make friends from different cultures. It helps me also improve my language.”

 It is this dual effort of learning and teaching that makes her such a special volunteer. And it is the reason why she is being awarded the Volunteer of the Month.

Volunteer Central strives to build a strong, connected and engaged community through volunteerism.

Community

India Part 2- Terrific photos! Experience the Taj Mahal and Ganges with Gerry Feehan

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India Part 2- Terrific photos help you experience the Taj Mahal and Ganges. This is the second in a four-part series on India

The Taj Mahal in Agra, India was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal. Constructed of ivory marble inlaid with semi-precious stones, the Taj Mahal is described as the world’s most perfect building. The Taj does not disappoint.

the Taj Mahal is described as the world’s most perfect building

The grand mausoleum is best viewed in the early morning light, but some important foreign politico was in town so the grounds were closed to us plebeians. We had to view the edifice from Agra Fort, which lies across the Yamuna River.

sharing the Taj Mahal with friendly locals

Still, the ancient site in the hazy distance was stunning, with its four tall minarets framing the gigantic domed tomb. In 1658, after a succession battle, Shah Jahan’s son had his father imprisoned in the Fort. The elder Shah was forced to live out his existence with a distant, tantalizing, maddening view of his beloved wife’s final resting place.

cows come first in India

a boy selling funerary votives

The Taj Mahal grounds re-opened to the great unwashed later that afternoon – affording us the opportunity to avoid the morning crowd. As the sun set, we were able to quietly enjoy this architectural wonder with an intimate gathering of… about 10,000 souls. Did I mention India has a lot of people? (see Part 1 of the series.)

“India? Are you nuts? Join Gerry for part 1 of his series on India.

 

What’s the scoop Anoop?

Every morning, before he could open his mouth to explain where we were going and what we’d see, eat and do that day, we’d greet our guide Anoop Singhal with a preemptive, “What’s the scoop, Anoop?” Then he’d regale us with the remarkable things we were to consume – visually and gastronomically – that day.

A family happily camped in the streets of Varanasi.

And throughout the adventure, with ceremonial kirpan rattling by his side, driver Devinder Singh navigated us safely through the byways of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, his horn a constant presence, firmly announcing our arrival in every hamlet, village and town.

Varanasi Pilgrims

When we flew to Varanasi to visit the sacred waters of the Ganges, Singh Ji drove through the night, met us at the airport and safely delivered us to our luxurious accommodation.

It was on the short drive into Varanasi that we saw our first corpse.

Supplicants bathe in the sacred GangesIt is the desire of every devout Hindu to be cremated along the banks of the Ganges River, ashes then spread into the sacred water. Such a fortuitous departure from life enhances the deceased’s opportunity to be transported to heaven and escape the cycle of reincarnation, rebirth.

What we had seen on the way into town was a body, brightly wrapped in funerary attire, drawn in an open cart and bound for a wooden funeral pyre.

Funeral Pyres on the banks of the Ganges

Late that afternoon, after navigating Varanasi’s warren-like alleyways and descending the stone steps of Manikarnika Ghat to the riverbank, we rowed quietly out into the soft Ganges current. Orange flames danced from a score of burning pyres, each mimicking the brilliant Indian sunset.

an offering for the river gods

Downstream, supplicants released floating offerings of lit candles set in yellow marigolds, while men and women – pilgrims from all over India – stepped into the water to cleanse themselves and sip the holy elixir.

garlands of marigolds

Despite encouragement from the locals we did not partake in the ritual of drinking directly from the blessed Ganges. A Canadian doctor I met on a scenic point overlooking the river warned that to do so was to invite, “the 30 day, 30 pound diet.”

As darkness descended we drifted silently, watching a growing multitude of funerary blazes illuminate the shore. The effect was ethereal, apocalyptic.

In the morning the mood at breakfast was somber. Our time with Mr. Singh and our wonderful guide Anoop was over. We were headed to Mumbai to begin the next leg of our journey. Before we left for the airport, Anoop Ji surprised us with a private yoga session in the garden of the Taj Gateway, our fabulous Varanasi hotel.

a colourful scene on the Ganges

 

end of along day

After a lot of “ohms”, some deep breathing and much stretching, the yogi insisted we finish the session with a laugh – literally. So, we all forced a grin that morphed to a chuckle and eventually became a contagious guffaw. Soon the whole group was howling with a genuine, fall on your yoga mat, belly laugh.

The mood had swung and we were all smiles as we boarded the plane for Mumbai.

Next time: the slums of Mumbai.

If you go: Explore India from Vancouver B.C., www.exploreindia.ca, capably and professionally handled all aspects of our private month-long tour – air and land travel, hotels, meals, guides, drivers, entrance fees and activities – for one all-inclusive price.

“India? Are you nuts?” Join Gerry for Part 1 of his series on India.

Thanks to Rod Kennedy and Kennedy Wealth Management and Ing and McKee Insurance for helping to make this series possible.  Please support them.

 

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Business News

Messenger Meats aims to meet community needs

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Through the family business, Mercedes Messinger is a long time community supporter.   That’s part of the reason why the owner of Messinger Meats found herself at the 2019 Red Deer Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Awards last fall.  Messenger Meats was nominated for Business of the Year and Mercedes was listening to the finalists for another category when she heard something that stayed with her.  Though she was a long time supporter of the Central Alberta Pregnancy Care Centre, Messinger had no idea the organization actually provided homes to new mothers as they sorted through life with their newborns.  This discovery lead Messinger down a path that culminated in a beautiful announcement in her store at the beginning of 2020.  In the following video Mercedes Messinger explains a new initiative she’s undertaken to bring a little financial help and even more awareness to worthy Not For Profit organizations.

 

Every Thursday though 2020, Messinger Meats will donate 2 dollars from every meal purchased to the chosen Not For Profit.   These organizations include ASPIRE Special Needs Resource Centre, Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre, Central Alberta Pregnancy Care Centre, Central Alberta Refugee Effort,  Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre, The Lending Cupboard, The Mustard Seed, Potters Hands, Safe Harbour Society, Smiles Thru Lindsey Foundation, Turning Point, and Vantage Community Services.

Potters Hands was the first charity selected.  At the end of every month, the recipient of the support will select another not for profit organization from the list.

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january, 2020

mon06jan(jan 6)8:00 amfri31(jan 31)12:00 amJanuary is Alzheimer's Awareness Month8:00 am - 12:00 am (31) Event Organized By: K. Jobs

sun12jan(jan 12)2:00 pmsun22mar(mar 22)5:00 pmAnne Frank: A History for Today opening at Red Deer MAG2:00 pm - (march 22) 5:00 pm mst Red Deer Museum & Art Gallery Address: 4525 - 47A Avenue, Red Deer

thu23jan(jan 23)6:00 pmsat25(jan 25)11:00 pmRed Deer Justice Film Festival6:00 pm - 11:00 pm (25) welikoklad event centre, 4922 49 St, Red Deer, AB T4N 1V3

fri24jan1:30 pm3:00 pmMonthly Mindfulness Drop-InMonthly Mindfulness Drop-In1:30 pm - 3:00 pm

mon27jan11:15 am1:15 pmLuncheon With Arlene Dickinson11:15 am - 1:15 pm Cambridge Hotel and Conference Centre, 3310 50 Avenue

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