Image: Justin Lee —

Celebrating Chronicles of our Community!

Last week, the Community Development team held a gathering to appreciate the efforts of people behind some awesome community projects made possible through a little financial help from UTown@UBC Community Grants , UTown @ UBC Animation Grants and UTown @ UBC Wellbeing Grants. Over 45 people attended the event, including recipients of grants, members of our grant selection committee and staff from UBC Wellbeing, University Neighbourhoods Association and our partners from Vancouver Foundation.

Our keynote speaker was Nihal Elwan, a superstar Vancouver-based volunteer who used a Vancouver Foundation Neighbourhood Small Grant of $500 to kick-start pop-up dinners that feature fresh delicacies, prepared by Syrian refugee women who have recently arrived in Vancouver. Nihal tapped into talents of these women who already have experience cooking for large family gatherings to help them build community at the dinner table over delicious Syrian Food.


As Ms. Elwan congratulated recipients of UTown @ UBC Grants, she said, “You have the opportunity to do something really big with it. I have lived in many cities, and we are so lucky to live in a city that embraces the notion of community and really embraces good hard work and efforts to bring people together.”

She added, “It is very important to help and support the most disfranchised and marginalized people in the community. I encourage you all to enjoy this process and flourish with your projects, and help as many community members as you can with your projects.”

Now, Nihal’s small grant project has blossomed into a full-service catering company that supports the livelihood of the Syrian women and their families called Tayybeh. We were lucky to serve our guests with a selection of traditional Syrian meals prepared with fresh local ingredients. All our guests loved the food so much that they couldn’t resist going back for seconds and thirds. As per Syrian tradition, there were no leftovers, and zero food waste.

We also heard from some of our grant recipients, Joshua Shephard and Jacob Diner who told us how they are illuminating the UBC campus at night with their unique project, Bike Rave. Students and residents alike look forward to this UTown@UBC grant-funded project to appreciate sustainable modes of transportation, deck their bikes and ride around campus. This year, the program got even more exciting when a special guest joined in. Jacob Diner said, “The first time, our UBC president, Santa Ono came, so that was really exciting!”

Jessie Classen spoke about her event Baby Senior Singalong. Vancouver is Jessie’s home away from home, which means that her kids can only Skype with their grandparents. So, Jessie came up with the idea of running a program that would bring together the little ones in the community with the oldest living at Wesbrook’s Tapestry Senior Living Centre.

“We sing very common songs that most people know like ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ that most people know. Kids also have instruments that they can play but we spend the remaining time just socializing, so there are lots of interactions that happen between babies, caregivers and seniors”.

As we said goodbye to our guests, we were told that many left inspired, made new connections and left with new ideas to build community on campus. Stay tuned for our next cycle of Community of Caring grants coming up soon, made possible by support from UBC Wellbeing