Select Page

In a world that is increasingly interconnected, celebrating diversity and fostering inclusion has become not just a goal, but a necessity. Recognizing this imperative, the Health Sciences Graduate Students’ Association (HSGSA) at St. Boniface Hospital Research (SBRC), led by Vice President Leena Regi Saleth, in collaboration with Shiqi Huang, the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM) trainee representative, to promote multicultural understanding among staff and students.

The brainchild of Saleth and Huang, the Multicultural Event Series at SBRC aimed to create a platform for dialogue, appreciation, and celebration of different cultures within the SBRC community. With the help of enthusiastic student volunteers, this initiative brought to life the vibrant tapestry of cultures represented within SBRC through a series of six festivals held over the course of two semesters.

A Celebration of Cultures

The Multicultural Event Series kicked off with the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival on Sept. 28, followed by the Indian festival of Diwali on Nov. 14, then the South Indian Harvest Festival of Pongal on Jan. 17.  March 20 brought the Persian New Year of Nowruz, followed by the Sri Lankan Sinhala and Tamil New Year on April 9, and concluded with the Islamic festival of Eid-al-Fitr on April 17. Each event showcased the unique traditions, cuisines, and customs associated with the respective cultures, providing attendees with an immersive experience.

“Participation in the various events that are organized by the students at St. Boniface Hospital campus is always valued,” shares Dr. Bram Ramjiawan, Director of Research and Director of Research Innovation and Regulatory Affairs. “It is an opportunity to expand our understanding of others, celebration and for growth. The work and kindness of the organizers are so appreciated.”

Building Bridges Through Culture

These events served as more than just cultural showcases; they were opportunities for community building and cross-cultural exchange. As Shiqi Huang reflects, “This event allowed me to not only introduce the Chinese culture to others in this family but also make friends with many folks working at other divisions/floors who I seldom have opportunities to meet usually especially during the pandemic.”

Embracing Diversity

For Leena Regi Saleth, the series was a personal journey of connection and sharing. “It was a blessing to prepare traditional dishes from my homeland, Tamil Nadu, and seeing everyone savor these authentic flavors and delve into the traditions of our harvest festival, a beautiful tradition that honors nature’s abundant resources for cultivation, was truly rewarding,” she shares.

Fostering Understanding

The Multicultural Event Series also provided an opportunity for individuals to learn about cultures different from their own, fostering greater understanding and appreciation. Danah Alhattab, who helped organize the Eid-al-Fitr celebration, remarks, “Hosting the Eid Al Fitr celebration not only allowed me to share my religious traditions but also fostered a sense of mutual respect, understanding, and compassion by encouraging cultural exchange and appreciation.”

Acknowledging Support

The success of the Multicultural Event Series would not have been possible without the support of various individuals and organizations. HSGSA and CCARM provided funding for the events, while volunteers from across SBRC dedicated their time and effort to make each celebration a memorable one. Special thanks to Dr. Michael Czubryt and Dr. Thomas Netticadan for their generous support, along with the invaluable assistance of Robert Blaich, Karen Swanson, Rhea Lopez, and Julie Schoffner.

Looking Ahead

As described by Executive Director, Dr. Michael Czubryt, diversity has been a hallmark of the Research Enterprise since its doors opened nearly 40 years ago. “Events like this reinforce our connections, and deepen our understanding of one another. I’m very proud of, and thankful for, our students’ efforts and initiative to establish this multicultural event series. I personally learned a lot, and appreciated the chance to share in the celebrations of our local-yet-global community,” he says.

As SBRC continues to champion diversity and inclusion, initiatives like the Multicultural Event Series serve as reminders of the richness that comes from embracing different cultures and perspectives. Through dialogue, collaboration, and celebration, SBRC is paving the way for a more inclusive future.

Special thanks to the volunteers for each festival: Hannah Zhang, Akshi Malik, Rohini Suresh and Danah Alhattab from ICS; Sadaf Asfa and Reza Arshinchi from DND; Soulmaz Naserli, Leila Tawakoli, Chamali Kodikara, Vinuri Weerasinghe, Shanella Senadhiraja, Dr. Champa Wijekoon, Dr. Ruchira Nandasiri, Ali Sabra and Fadi Ramadan, from CCARM.