South Asian community group to hold Edmonton COVID-19 workshop

·3 min read
Alberta South Asian community organizers are hosting COVID-19 information workshops in Edmonton and Calgary, complete with Punjabi pamphlets and mask clips designed for people who wear turbans.
Alberta South Asian community organizers are hosting COVID-19 information workshops in Edmonton and Calgary, complete with Punjabi pamphlets and mask clips designed for people who wear turbans.

(Supplied by Simran Dhillon - image credit)

A group of young South Asian community organizers is trying to bridge the gap between information about COVID-19 and seniors and Punjabi speakers.

"A lot of our youth in both Calgary and Edmonton have taken it upon ourselves to ensure that seniors are really understanding that this is a very crucial point in the COVID-19 pandemic and we play a large role in reducing those numbers," said Simran Dhillon, the project's Edmonton lead and a student at the University of Alberta.

One of the group's efforts will take place on Sunday when it hosts a COVID-19 information workshop at the Gurdwara Millwoods.

As people arrive for prayer, they'll be met outside by volunteers bearing with Punjabi COVID-19 information pamphlets. Inside, the Alberta South Asian COVID-19 Relief Project plans to put up Punjabi information posters around the temple.

The workshop is expected to run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday.

The project was born in part out of Dhillon's organizing efforts with the Sangat Youth YEG community group, which looks to amplify Sikh voices and share meaningful resources. The group put out a Punjabi health resource guide last year with a wide range of information, from where to find a Punjabi-speaking physician to details about the opioid crisis.

The project also held an information session at a Calgary Gurdwara earlier this month.

The catalyst for the workshops came from Premier Jason Kenney's comments made in November on South Asian community radio stations in Calgary and Edmonton, Dhillon said.

Community leaders slammed Kenney's comments, saying he appeared to blame the South Asian community for rising COVID-19 cases while failing to acknowledge his government's shortcomings.

In mid-December, the government created COVID-19 teams to head into hard-hit neighbourhoods in Edmonton and Calgary, handing out printed materials in a variety of languages along with masks and hand sanitizer.

"Instead of drawing our community together in one of the most divisive times, it contributed to that divisiveness," Dhillon said.

"We should be outreaching to the South Asian community where we are seeing larger spikes in numbers potentially. It's not necessarily to draw attention to the problem but facilitate a solution to these issues."

Along with Punjabi information pamphlets, the group is also offering free clips designed to help people who wear head coverings get a more secure and comfortable mask fit.

It's all to get culturally sensitive and specific resources into the hands of people who are often overlooked in public-health messaging, Dhillon said.

"In every facet of public health, we pride ourselves on multiculturalism, but we often don't see that brought up in how we provide pertinent information that could potentially be life-saving," she said.

"And at this moment in time, it could be a matter of death for a lot of our seniors and so we're taking it upon ourselves at this crucial moment to ensure that they're getting that health and safety precaution."