Dogwood’s Cheryl Cameron chats with one our newest volunteers in North Vancouver-Lonsdale
You’ve mentioned you did some advocacy work in Nepal. Can you tell me about that?
I went to a boarding school in Kathmandu. My grandfather was one of the founding members of the Nepalese Congress party, it was a democratic front. They were in exile in India for a long time because of that. My mother’s family had their land confiscated and they went through a lot of hardship. My mum was always a great example to me — she was someone who was always helping others. We lived in a “joint family” situation, where our extended family lived all together. Living in the community, my mum was always helping anyone in need. It was a way of life for her.
At boarding school, I was a part of a “social club”, which would do projects in the community, cleaning temples and helping people in need. When I finished school I became a member of the Rotary Club in Kathmandu, where we continued this kind of community work.
I was back visiting in Nepal when the earthquake happened in 2015. It was chaos. I immediately joined with some of my friends from school to help in the crisis situation. Within 90 minutes after the earthquake, we got a blood donation campaign going by word-of-mouth to help address the immediate need.
Next thing we did was pool our resources. Someone had an office that was still intact, so we got together and worked as a team. Within five days after the earthquake we were able to distribute about 115,000 sacks of rice and 80,000 tarps. The most important thing was to get people something to eat and some shelter. Getting that done was a big task. This was an independent effort — we got the money from independent donations and kept our accounting totally transparent. We were able to distribute the materials — even though there was the threat of violence at times.
It just happened — we saw the need and we took the steps necessary to help people.
Tell us about what made you want to volunteer with Dogwood.
I came to Canada in October 2014 without my wife and daughter, then went back to get them. I was down at the waterfront one night and met a Dogwood volunteer at the North Van Night Market. They were talking to people about the Ban Big Money campaign and what the situation is here in B.C. with unlimited donations to political parties.
I come from a background in Nepal where corruption is rampant. All of the police are corrupt, as well as the politicians. It’s really bad! So when I spoke to the Dogwood volunteers about the Ban Big Money campaign, it really hit home with me. For B.C., for Canada, I believe there is a rule of law, and that we need to stop this corruption before it takes hold. Plus I’m new to the area, and thought that through volunteering I’d meet some local people — so I went for it!
You’re such a natural at canvassing, everyone loves to talk with you!
I do like talking to people, I enjoy it!
Do you feel like the work we’re doing is making a difference?
Yes, I do. And by doing this work and talking with people I’m learning a lot about how things work politically here. It’s a great learning opportunity for me. I think that the work we do talking to people makes people stop and think about things. And the work we did before the election, I would give some kudos to Dogwood for the way the election turned out.
I’m pleased to see that the new government is bringing experts in to give evidence and feedback on things like the Site C project. This is really good. They’re really going in the right direction.
I’m planning on helping with the Kinder Morgan phone banking — I think I can do it from home! I’ve done phone work before, so I’m familiar with it. I’ll come to one of the phone banks, get trained and then I can do it from home.
Have you been able to connect with people on your Dogwood Team?
When I do a volunteer shift, it’s nice to meet and get to know whoever I’m working with, and it’s fun to see how they approach people. It’s often tough with my family and my work schedule to do more, but I do what I can!
Thank you so much Babin. We’re so lucky to have you in B.C., and to have you on our Dogwood team.
If you’d like to join a volunteer team in your community, find out more here.