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Meet Surrey’s Buena Tupe: Youth Director, Nonprofit Founder & Educator

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buena tupe

Surrey is a large city with an incredibly diverse culture, and I constantly meet many new immigrants and youth who find it a struggle to feel a sense of community and belonging. I mean, at first, isn’t it generally difficult to immediately immerse yourself in a city with people from different cultures and walks of life?

Well, I had the opportunity to interview a woman who believes her purpose is to help alleviate that issue and to provide a home for youth from different backgrounds and circumstances.

Buenavida Tupe, otherwise known as Buena, is a passionate youth director, founder of People of Grace International, and educator. If I had to describe her in a nutshell, she is indeed, a strong-willed woman with a big heart.

Buena was already a high school teacher at the age of 20, and soon after, became a university teacher at the renowned Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines. She eventually decided to give up her secure job placement in order to be a youth director here in Surrey, B.C.

In her lifetime, she has already gone on mission trips to Hong Kong, Tibet, England, Ireland, Cambodia, India, and Vietnam to name a few. Another cool fact? She had her M.A. thesis on using metacognitive strategies for comprehension published in an education journal, and with this knowledge, is continually able to help youth understand themselves better and their approach to learning.

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Krystele: You have such an international perspective and have travelled all over the world. What made you decide to come and stay in Surrey, BC?

 Buena: I am currently employed as a Youth Director at the Fleetwood International Church, and I handle all the programs. I decided to stay in Surrey because it is a booming multi-cultural community, and I have the opportunity to cater to these students and these youth and their families as well.

Through her work, Buena’s mission is to also reach out to the local community outside of the church by creating a fun and enriching environment:

 Buena: We have what we call ‘Wednesday Drop-Ins’ where students can come for homework help, games and also career support through helping them build resumes and having our youth leaders in to mentor their school success and planning for the future. It’s my desire that youth will be occupied with meaningful, fun and character-building activities year round. We also have Friday after school activities, retreats, camps, bootcamps and overseas outreach experiences.

Krystele: It’s great to see how active you are within Surrey and to see the sparkle in your eye when you talk about youth. I’m curious to know your perspective on the education system here.

Buena: Well, I deal with different students: those who excel in school and are motivated in academics, those in French immersion that perhaps struggle in English or struggle in being excellent in one language, and those who just take it easy and just want to get over school. 

I think that in general, we have a good education system but just as in any society, the parents’ role in educating children should not be ignored. Parents should be encouraged to participate in making sure their children get the best education. They can participate by keeping their children accountable in their school work, sending them to good after school programs, giving them the assistance they need in classes they struggle with, and play the main role in value and character shaping. Parents should also speak up when they feel that the system is trying to manipulate their children to follow a certain value system or educational system they do not agree with.

As we continue to converse, she goes on to share her passion of nurturing, enriching and empowering youth of different nationalities by fostering their emotional, social, cultural, intellectual and spiritual growth.

Buena: I get inspired when I see youth coming out of their shells, smiling, beaming, growing, reaching their potential and recognizing their value. I love seeing them have clean, meaningful fun and seeing them use their time and abilities for things that matter.

Incredibly poised yet candid in all her answers, I asked Buena whether there was a moment in her life when she realized that this was her purpose:

Buena: One major moment was when I was at a big youth conference and I committed to share the blessings I have. I was a junior in university, so I think I was 18 years old at the time. From then on, I was traveling the world and sharing what I had with others when given the opportunity.

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Aside from leading various youth initiatives in Surrey, Buena is also founder of People of Grace International, a registered agency in Canada and the United States with the aim to give the less fortunate a chance by opening doors of opportunity through quality education.

Buena: We need to be proactive in reaching out to nations experiencing turmoil. Are we doing anything to help those who have no chance at life because of poverty or political turmoil? I founded this nonprofit with the objective to provide hope and vision to the young and youth by giving them educational opportunities so that they can fulfill their God-given destiny. It’s time to be proactive in reaching out and helping those in need.

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Krystele: Yes, I believe that too. A small amount of money, time or effort can go a long way in giving someone a hope and a future. How can the community support the amazing work that you’re up to?

Buena: Donating towards a child’s education or donating towards an outreach trip in the poor and developing nations I reach such as Philippines, India, and soon in the Middle East, and other countries in Asia, will be very helpful!

Krystele: You carry a long list of job titles – entrepreneur, founder of your organization, Youth Director and mentor to all these individuals. How have you been able to balance it all?

Buena: My main work and focus of course is youth and mentoring leaders. In the past, I was both teaching high school, university and doing youth work and mentoring leaders. I was raised in a home whose drive was to serve others and educate them to be the best they could be through faith in Christ. I am used to multi-tasking. I came to Canada not for myself but to serve the youth here and to help those in need. 

Krystele: What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Buena: Well, I strongly believe that immigrants who come here are blessed to be a blessing. That is, we should pay it forward. I feel that people really need to understand that we should not forget our loved ones in our respective countries, and throughout the world, who are going through political turmoil, who are deprived of basic comforts, who have no chance at life because of lack of opportunity and because of the injustices in their society.

After my interview with Buena, I started to contemplate more about the issues prevalent in our society today. For example, the government plays a role by providing easier ways for people at risk to find a safe haven here; however, are we doing anything to help those who are new in Canada to feel at home? Are we doing anything to support youth from different backgrounds, families and social situations?

To help support Buena’s endeavors, check out People of Grace International or contact her at buena@fichurch.org.

Krystele Chavez with Buena Tupe

Krystele Chavez with Buena Tupe

Krystele was born and raised on the beautiful island of Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. Although from a tiny community, she was already traveling to North America at the age of 12 to compete and champion international public speaking competitions. Her global perspective has helped her branch out to discover new opportunities when she moved to BC seven years ago. At just 21, she has received a B.A. in Communications from SFU and has already worked for numerous organizations including Metro Vancouver, Canadian Cancer Society, Special Olympics BC, and the BC Non-Profit Housing Association to name a few. She is an entrepreneur, and handles social media for reputable brands. Krystele's passion is to help others find their voice and be heard, as well as inspire others to make the world a better place.

Charity

SurreyCares Community Foundation Part of New Emergency Community Support Fund

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$900,000 available in Surrey for charities supporting COVID-19 response

SurreyCares Community Foundation announced it will be providing over $900,000 to support local charities responding to COVID-19 as part of a partnership with Community Foundations of Canada, United Way Centraide Canada and the Canadian Red Cross, funded through the Government of Canada’s $350M Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF).

This national effort aims to support vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by COVID-19. SurreyCares is one of more than 100 local community foundations across Canada taking part.

“This is a vital step in the fight against COVID-19,” says John Lawson, Chair of SurreyCares. “It’s a difficult time for everyone, and we know that local charities and non-profit organizations have been working tirelessly to support those who are already marginalized in our community. This additional funding is a much-needed boost to their efforts. We’re looking forward to flowing funds quickly to ensure no one in our community is left behind.”

The Emergency Community Support Fund was initially announced on April 21, 2020, by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as part of a series of emergency response measures by the Government of Canada.

“Canadian charities and not for profits are always there to help you in your time of need. But the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing real challenges to these important organizations. With today’s announcement, the Government of Canada will be there for them so they can continue to be there for Canadians.” explained The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.

Starting on May 19, SurreyCares Community Foundation will begin accepting applications for funding from qualified local charities, not-for-profits and community organizations. Grants can be used for a variety of purposes, including staffing, resources, or purchasing supplies. Funding will be issued on an ongoing basis through July 2020. Charities and community organizations are invited to visit the foundation website for eligibility and application details.

“At Community Foundations of Canada, our purpose to ‘relentlessly pursue a future where everyone belongs’ has never felt more important than it does right now,” said Andrea Dicks, Community Foundations of Canada President. “We’re grateful for the leadership of local community foundations like SurreyCares who have been at the forefront of local response efforts since the pandemic was declared.

Thanks to the Government of Canada’s contribution, our network will be able to unlock even more local impact for organizations serving vulnerable groups, helping us set the stage for more inclusive, resilient and sustainable communities.”

SurreyCares’ vision for Surrey is a giving, connected community. SurreyCares’ mission is to inspire donors, grow endowments and invest in people.

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Charity

Sikh based groups form Virtual Vaisakhi to raise funds and give back during COVID-19 pandemic/Sikh Heritage Month

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As the world is faced with the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, a collective of local Sikh based community organizations have come together to celebrate Sikh Heritage Month and Vaisakhi by giving back.

The collective, through Virtual Vaisakhi (fundraising efforts) and invoking the Spirit of Vaisakhi (volunteer initiatives) are raising funds and working with existing community outreach and non-profits within British Columbia to help ease the related economic hardships faced by the communities in which we live and work.

“Every year there are many Vaisakhi Nagar Kiran events that bring thousands of people together to collectively celebrate Sikhi,” noted Jessie Kaur Lehail of Kaur Project/Virtual Vaisakhi. This year, we are directly asking and inspiring Sikhs and non-Sikhs to collectively open their wallets and hearts to help invoke the Spirit of Vaiskahi to address the most pressing and emerging needs with organizations working with local food banks, seniors outreach, marginalized communities and domestic support services. Let’s celebrate Vaisakhi by helping others. We’re all in this together and 100% of proceeds will go directly to community initiatives.”

Currently the collective includes Kaur Project, One Voice Canada, SAF, Khalsa Aid, Guru Nanak’s Free Kitchen, SAMHAA, SikhRi, Future is Partnership, Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar, Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar, Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar, SEYVA, S.A.L.M.O.N Project and many others. Guided by the Sikhi based value of Sarbat Da Bhala (service to all) while practicing Charhdi Kala (expansive resilience) and Joash (vibrant courage) and a spirit of giving, Virtual Vaisakhi is asking EVERYONE to invoke the Spirit of Vaisakhi to raise financial support.

As the COVID-19 crisis evolves, the Virtual Vaisakhi campaign and Spirit of Vaisakhi operations will continue nimbly align philanthropic resources based on emerging needs, prioritizing food, medical and emergency assistance for seniors, marginalized and domestic support services. As needs are communicated, it will be of utmost importance for Virtual Vaisakhi/Spirit of Vaisakhi to provide funding to these organizations rapidly.

Virtual Vaisakhi Donate Online

We’re tapping into the strength of collective giving to alleviate the public health and economic consequences of the coronavirus in British Columbia. Virtual Vaisakhi has committed to contributing 100% of money raised to community initiatives. To donate, visit the Virtual Vaisakhi’s website www.virtualvaisakhi.com

Spirit of Vaisakhi Operations

With a little less than one week in combining efforts, the following initiatives are taking place:

  • Over 1500 daily meals are being served
  • 100+ grocery/prescription deliveries
  • Glove and mask coordination/delivery
  • Health care snack/meal delivery

To volunteer or request help visit www.virtualvaisakhi.com

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Charity

Happy Singh Eats & Tandoori Flame, Partner to Offer FREE Meals to Frontline Workers and Those in Need

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After spending just over a week and a half making deliveries of pre-packaged meals to frontline workers at Delta, Surrey Memorial and Vancouver General Hospitals, the team at Happy Singh Eats (with support from Tandoori Flame) realized that the community’s need is much greater than they realized. “We started at Delta Hospital, then to Surrey Memorial. After that the Surrey ER and Imaging Centre, VGH ER and the Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre all reached out looking for similar assistance.

We realized that the need stretched much greater than what we originally thought,” shared Shraey Gulati, Managing Director, Tandoori Flame Restaurants. “We have been blessed to be able to help others, and that itself is another blessing” As a team they have happily obliged to fulfill these requests and continue to do deliveries of hundreds of meals daily to all of these locations for the on-staff frontline workers, however they wanted to consider how they could do more. From that evolved Happy Singh’s Seva Kitchen.

As a subsidiary of Tandoori Flame Restaurants and given that they are not officially open yet, Happy Singh Eats is working with the kitchen team over at Tandoori Flame Delta, just across the road from them, to execute this initiative. Seva is a sanskrit word that means selfless service and is a prominent value within South Asian culture. Keeping that in mind, the answer seemed obvious. Gulati went on to explain that the sentiment of Seva is particularly important for their family ethos. “Our father always taught us to be the giver, whenever and wherever possible.”

Gulati’s father, Galendra Gulati recently returned to Canada from India and his first question when he heard about our hospital deliveries while in self-quarantine was, ‘What about those who are not at the hospital? What about those who have lost their jobs? What are we doing for them?’ He in turn got these thoughts from his father (Shraey’s grandfather), who used to say ‘You have what you have to pass it forward. Help those in need, spread love and kindness. We are JUST a medium.’”

Starting today, Happy Singh’s Seva Kitchen will operate from the take-out window located at Tandoori Flame’s Delta Location (11970 88 Ave, Delta, BC V4C 3C8). Any frontline workers can receive a free meal from their take-out window. They request that if you are in plain clothes that you provide an ID and if you are in uniform, then that’s easy.

They are also offering meals to those who simply cannot afford it right now. COVID19 is impacting our community in so many ways including lost jobs, reduced income, the inability to get groceries and more. If you are in need, we want to help. Free meals will be provided daily between 3pm and 7pm time on a first come, first served basis until meals run out. They do however hope to have enough to go through the entire day.

If however, you are unable to visit within that time frame, you are welcome to come anytime within the take-our hours of noon – 9pm. “We are starting with 3-7pm as we simply do not know what the demand will be like, but we won’t refuse anyone, as long as we have the resources to serve them,” shared Gulati.

When asked how long this program will run, Gulati said, “We don’t know the answer to that yet. We are going to continue for as long as we can and intend to keep our patrons updated via our website.” He also shared that those interested in supporting the initiative can donate meals to the program through their online takeout form at bit.ly/HappySinghDonate.

ABOUT HAPPY SINGH EATS | Happy Singh Eats, the newest restaurant endeavour by Tandoori Flame Restaurants, is slated to open in Summer 2020 with 160 seats inside and 72 outside on a covered patio. Akin to a South Asian version of fast casual dining, it is modelled after popular roadside cafés found all over India providing ready to eat snacks. The new cafe style restaurant will offer dine-in and take-out options with live cooking and over 10 food stations where guests can see popular street style snacks being prepared right in front of them. The menu will include items such as: kathi rolls, a chaat station, a Jr. Happy Singh box meal for kids; thali style meals, Paranthas, a samosa station, a dosa station, traditional curries, pizzas, sandwiches, and more. www.happysingheats.com

ABOUT TANDOORI FLAME | Established in 2009, Tandoori Flame is the largest grand Indian buffet and restaurant in North America. With up to 150 food options and live interactive food stations, the restaurant group now has three locations in Canada – Mississauga, Brampton (Toronto) and Surrey/Delta (British Columbia). www.tandooriflame.com

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Local One Billion Rising Events Create 1300 Care Packages for Women and Children

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To mark 2020’s, Worldwide One Billion Rising* campaign, the biggest mass action to end violence against women, social justice and faith based organizations came together to hold events in Vancouver and Surrey in February 2020. The main focus was to bring people together to create over 1300 care packages filled with personal hygiene necessities to help women and children across the Lower Mainland. Both gatherings brought an intersection of people and faiths interested in giving back and delving in deeper conversations to enrich their communities.

Elder Gertie Pierre, from the Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society welcomed event participants with opening remarks and offered the sacred tradition of cedar brushing, that helped clear negative energy.

Both events had brief interactive question rounds where partnering organizations were highlighted, but also participants were encouraged to exchange ideas with others. At each event, Chas Coultee from the Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society educated participants about Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls. Both the cities of Vancouver and Surrey honoured the events with the reading of official proclamations declaring February 1-7th UN World International Harmony Week, and the assembly of more than 1,300 hygiene packages.

*Every February, we rise – in countries across the world – to show our local communities and the world what one billion looks like and shine a light on the rampant impunity and injustice that survivors most often face. For more information on Background on One Billion Rising:

https://www.onebillionrising.org/about/campaign/one-billion-rising/

Care packages were created to support the following organizations:

  • Ama Transition House
  • Azure Place
  • Bill Reid Place
  • Charlford House
  • Cold Weather Shelters across the Lower Mainland
  • Dixon House
  • Durrant Transition House
  • Elizabeth Gurney House
  • Evergreen Transition House
  • Firth Residence
  • Fraserside Emergency Family Shelter
  • Hyland House
  • Jewish Family Services
  • Joy’s Place
  • Kenkinow Native Housing Society
  • Koomseh Housing
  • Maxxine Wright Place
  • Monarch Place
  • Nova House
  • Shimai Transition House
  • Springhouse Vancouver Women’s Shelter
  • Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter
  • Vi Fineday Family Shelter Society

This year’s community partners included, Centre For Israel And Jewish Affairs, Global Girl Power, Global Peace Alliance, Guru Nanak Foundation of Canada, Guru Nanak’s Free Kitchen, Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, Kaur Project, Mustang Justice, Sri Guru Singh Sabha Surrey, Surrey Interfaith Council , The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Vancouver Interfaith Network, World Sikh Organization of Canada, Worldwide Shift Disturbers.

www.1brlm.com

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Over $1.35 Million Raised at Surrey Hospital Foundation Gala

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Surrey Hospital Foundation’s 5th Annual Gala Raises Over $1.35 Million in Support of Surgery at Surrey Memorial Hospital

On Saturday, February 22, 2020, 680 local business, community, medical, and philanthropic leaders attended the 5th Annual Celebration of Care Gala at Aria Banquet Centre in Surrey. $1,352,000 was raised for innovative equipment purchases for the region’s largest and busiest surgical centre at Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Surrey Hospital Foundation hosted the sold-out event, themed after a glamorous, Hollywood-style after party. The gala began with an exciting red carpet experience where guests were fawned over by actors portraying Hollywood paparazzi. Emcees Keri Adams and Jason Pires of CTV led guests through the evening featuring dinner by Peake of Catering, and impressive entertainment with Vancouver’s pre-eminent DJs, DJ Chloe and DJ Pri. The live auction, led by beloved showman, Fred Lee, was a highlight of the event. After dinner, guests indulged in a dynamic dance party with Vancouver’s legendary Dr. Strangelove Band, with special guest Keri Adams.

“Our fifth annual gala was a great success,” says Jane Adams, President & CEO of Surrey Hospital Foundation. “In the past five years, our gala guests have raised over $10 million for Surrey Memorial Hospital. This year’s gala was about excellence. It was about supporting the excellent surgeons we have in Surrey and attracting more. In the race for exceptional medical talent, Surrey must win. Our residents deserve the very best.”

This year’s Gala Committee was led by Gala Committee Chair, Sonia Virk of Virk Viyas and Associate Lawyers. It was generously supported by over 40 sponsors, including Berezan Group and EllisDon who returned as Presenting Sponsors. Starline Windows, Qualico, and Blackwood Partners returned as the Dinner, Reception and Entertainment Sponsors. Surrey Honda generously donated a hybrid vehicle to the event raffle, and RBC enlisted the help of their Youth Ambassadors to help welcome guests to the event.

Westland Insurance joined the gala as Valet Sponsor, Newway and RBI were Diamond Sponsors this year, and Leith Wheeler returned as Silent Auction Sponsor. Heritage Office Furnishings and MNP joined the gala as Décor Sponsor and Wine Sponsor, respectively. Marathon Homes returned as Photo Booth Sponsor. Gold Sponsors included: BMO, Coast Capital Savings, Deloitte, Envision Financial, Guildford Town Centre, Hayer Builders Group, Murray Latta, Nanak Foods, Second Cup (Surrey Memorial), TD, Virk Viyas and Associate Lawyers.

Silver Sponsors included: Basran Wealth Management, Century Group, K-Bro Linens, KDS Construction, Manning Elliott, PearTree, Pitt Meadows Plumbing and Searay Foods. In-kind sponsors included 99 Nursery & Florist, Print Advantage, Aria Banquet & Convention Centre, BC Event Management, Bell Media, Black Press Media, Darpan Magazine, Drishti Magazine, Post Media, RedFM.

For more information, please visit surreyhospitalfoundation.com/gala.

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