Meetup – Build Your Own Community

I stumbled across Meetup when I became a mother in 2008. New to my community, I was researching different activities that I could do with my baby and meet other new moms. I wanted to connect with people who had similar interests and to share experiences. A ‘Mom and Me’ Meetup group popped up in my search. It included a calendar of events and activities to do with other new mothers including coffee shop gatherings, library story time activities and hiking with babies. I nervously signed up for my first hike when my child was 5 months old.

I vividly remember showing up for this hike, with my baby in a carrier, and awkwardly introducing myself to the two other women who signed up that day. We started walking and talking and before I knew it, the hike was over. A success.

Fast forward 8 years – our family has a solid network of friends that grew from this first hike. We built our own community. Our children go to different schools, we live on different sides of the city, but we regularly plan events and activities that bring us together. I love the support and the connection, and I love that my children have this one constant network that has been there since the beginning.

“Meetup helps people find and create communities based around the ideas and activities that matter to them. Meetups can be formed around a common interest or cause, and they are sustained through regular, face-to-face gatherings.”

As a newcomer to the Lower Mainland, there are a number of MeetUps that may be of interest to you as well. You can search according to cultural affinity, job searching techniques, improving a skill-set, or a fun activity or outing.

If you click on the search box field, you can see the various categories, ranging from Arts & Culture to Sports & Recreation. You’ll also see groups specific to Language and Ethnic Identity:

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Another MeetUp, Job Search for New Immigrants in Greater Vancouver, offers support for new immigrants interested in understanding the Canadian labor market, networking, interviewing, social media and existing programs and resources in the community (they look like a welcoming bunch).


Whatever your interest, if you’re looking to expand your networks, share ideas, or find activities, Meetup might be the place to get you connected to the people who will become your community.

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Get your (Board) Game on!

What was your favourite game to play growing up?

I loved Risk. I would spend hours with my brothers and sister strategizing and contemplating how I would take over the world. On rare occasions, when I won, I would bask in the glory of sibling domination until crushed in the next game.

Board games are back. Many cafes and restaurants now furnish a variety of games on their shelves for patrons to play and connect while enjoying their stay. Board game stores are popping up to sell their wares. And, of course, libraries are offering game nights and game making activities.

Yut_sticksThe Burnaby Public Libraries is hosting a Game Crafters night in which participants will make their own board games that were invented in Asia. Each family will be able to take one or two games home with them after
construction and lessons (registration is encouraged).

The Vancouver Public Library regularly posts times for participants to play Board Games. You can drop in and play the variety of games available at the library.

Richmond Public Library offers a Family Board Game Extravaganza in which you can bring your own games, play featured games or choose another game. Your family, or your friends are welcome to join.

The Fraser Valley Regional Library (George Mackie branch) adds pizza to their Teen Night Pizza and Games with games and snacks provided by Imperial Hobby.

The Surrey Libraries (Strawberry Hill branch) has Fab Fridays where participants are invited to make crafts, play board games or watch movies.

The Port Moody Library Books and Board Games invites families to come read with their children or play any of the games held in the library.

The Coquitlam Public Library is hosting an Imagination Fair where participants can build and play with a variety of games.

Plan the time to connect and play over strategies and moves – keep your eyes on the calendars at your libraries. Spend an afternoon or evening basking in timeless and ageless fun with your family and friends. All free of charge.



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Culture Access Pass – Explore Vancouver

Well this weather caught me by surprise. I have some friends coming from out of town and had hoped to take them hiking, biking and all things outdoors. Instead, I have to figure out what indoor activities we can do.

Lucky for me, I know about the Culture Access Pass:

Cultural-Access-PassA gift to each Canadian citizen during their first year of citizenship, the Cultural Access Pass provides complimentary admission to more than 1000 of Canada’s cultural treasures from coast-to-coast-to-coast. The Cultural Access Pass creates opportunities for Canada’s newest citizens to discover our rich cultural history, world-renowned artworks, historical figures and stunning parks.

It’s easy to obtain. Simply register yourself for your Culture Access Pass, then bring:

  1. Your Cultural Access Pass registration confirmation number (found on the registration confirmation page or the confirmation e-mail sent to you after you registered)
  2. A piece of photo ID with your birth date on it
  3. Your Citizenship Certificate (the letter sized certificate with your name and date of citizenship given to you at the citizenship ceremony)

to any of the following libraries: Vancouver Public Library, Burnaby Public Library, Coquitlam Public Library, Surrey Libraries, or the Richmond Public Library. You can view this handy map for the location nearest you.

You now have access to free admission for you and up to four (4) of your minor, dependent children (17 years of age or under) to a variety of locations in and around Canada. A few particular locations I’m fond of are:

There are so many other options to choose from spanning across this great country. Have a look at this interactive map if you’re planning on traveling this summer. Now you can enjoy the beautiful outdoors, and the cultural indoors – all for free.

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Summer Night Markets

School is out and summer is on. The weather forecast is perfect for the Summer Night Markets in and around the lower mainland. With markets in Surrey, North Vancouver, and Richmond, you’ll be able to get to one easily. These summer markets attract thousands of visitors per day and feature hundreds of food vendors, discount retailers and live entertainment. A great night out for you and the family.


Surrey Night Market:

The Surrey Night Market is an open-air market with a multicultural flair. There’s a wide variety of ethnic foods, goods and services available. As you walk through, you’ll enjoy performances by local bands, singers and dancers. With a number of rides and games for youth, this is a great place for the entire family to be entertained.
Location: Agriplex Complex within the Cloverdale Exhibition Grounds – 17726 62nd Avenue, Surrey, BC
Dates and Times: Fridays & Saturdays 6pm-11pm, Sundays 1:00pm-5:00pm

North Vancouver

North Vancouver’s Shipyards Night Market  offers a farmers-market atmosphere. There are food trucks, live music, a beer garden and local products from BC artisans, bakers and farmers. You can purchase items such as clothing, plants, produce, meet and jewelry.
Location: Shipyards Plaza 15 Wallace Mews, North Vancouver
Dates and Times: Fridays 5pm-10pm


Richmond offers two night markets:

Panda Night Market is known for its food, featuring traditional Japanese, Chinese and Korean food, such as freshly-grilled squid, pork sui mai, and Osaka balls, alongside Western fairground favourites such as sno-cones, and Belgian waffles. This market offers hundreds of vendors selling inexpensive goods alongside a line up of live entertainment
Location: 12631 Vulcan Way, Richmond, BC
Dates and Times: Fridays, Saturdays 7pm-12am & Sundays 7pm-11pm

Richmond Night Market is the Lower Mainland’s top spot for summer visitors. This market offers nightly performances throughout the summer, including singing, dancing and martial arts. This market has 80+ food vendors, 250+ retailers, and carnival rides.
Location: 8351 River Road, Richmond, BC
Dates and Times: Fridays, Saturdays 7pm-12am & Sundays 7pm-11pm

A few tips to ensure you have a good time:

  • Bring cash – vendors often accept cash only. ATMs may be on site, but they have an extra charge associated with your cash withdrawal.
  • Keep the kids close – these markets are busy. Have your kids hold hands, tell them where to meet you if you are separated, or provide them a phone to keep in touch.

Wishing you a happy start to your summer season. Let me know how you find the Summer Night Markets.

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Let’s Celebrate Canada Day!

Canada became a country July 1, 1867 making this year its 149th birthday. You’ll want to celebrate the final countdown towards 150 years with the many events  taking place throughout the lower mainland. A few highlights:


Canada Day at Canada Place – the largest Canada Day celebration outside of Canada’s capital city. This event will feature music on the main stage, a citizenship ceremony, a Coast Capital Savings Youth Zone and much more. The event will close with the Canada Day fireworks in the Burrard Inlet.

Canada Day Parade – presented by the Port of Vancouver, this free community parade will feature the diversity, multiculturalism and the special bond that connects all Canadians. This parade will start at the corner of Georgia and Broughton Streets, running eastbound along Georgia, then north down Burrard Street ending at West Pender.


The City of Burnaby will host Canada Day festivities at:

Edmonds Plaza and Park – free family activities, face painting, music, arts and crafts, the ever popular bingo, cake, amazing multi-cultural entertainment and more. Event runs from 11am-2:30pm

Burnaby Village Museum – at the backdrop of its 1920s village streets, this event has multi-cultural family entertainment including a musicians, displays & demonstrations.

Swangard Stadium – a free concert and fireworks display. The event marks Canada’s 149th birthday and highlights include: top-notch entertainment; activities and exhibitors for the whole family, and spectacular fireworks for the grand finale.

There are many more events to choose from and you can be sure that your libraries will be there, participating in these events with you. Happy Canada Day!


At the Bill Reid Millennium Amphitheatre, this event will begin at 10am, and run through to 10:30pm. This event will feature amusement rides, strawberry tea, Science World, Kids World, performers and more, and will finish with fireworks.


Bring your lawn chairs and blankets and join the fun-filled, family-friendly festivities in Delta. Head to the museum for a pancake breakfast, live musical entertainment, street performers and enjoy some Canada Day cake.


Watch the parade as it cruises down South Fraser Way to Abbotsford Exhibition Park, and then spend the day enjoying the food, play zones, entertainment, community booths, fireworks celebration, and much more.


July 1st marks the Steveston Salmon Festival. This day begins with a pancake breakfast at 6:30am and is followed by a Citizenship Ceremony at 8:30am. The Canada Day parade then winds through historic Steveston village and lands at the Opening Cermonies on the Main Stage at noon. Come sing O Canada and take part in the Japanese Cultural Show, the Car Show, the Children’s Festival and more.


Fort Langley has a day of activities and events lined up for some good, family entertainment. Experience history with free admission to the Fort Langley National Historic Site and participate in arts and heritage themed fun.

Port Moody

Golden Spike Days mark Port Moody’s weekend of fun. This family festival is held in Rocky Pont Park, Port Moody and commemorates the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway to the city and the Confederation of Canada. The festival includes live music, dancers, parades, and more.

North Vancouver

The North Vancouver Canada Day celebrations take place at Waterfront Park from 12pm-4pm. This event has fun activities for all ages.

West Vancouver

Dress up in our national colours and head to John Lawson Park from 4:30-10:30pm. Food vendors, live entertainment and fireworks will mark this location.




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Basics of Starting Your Own Business

“Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.” – Farrah Gray

It’s that idea that keeps buzzing around in your head, incessantly returning – asking you to take some time to look at it a little more carefully. You continue to brush it off, believing that you’ll have more time later, but your small business idea just won’t leave you alone. Where do you even begin to find the information that you need to give this some serious thought?

A recent article published by CBC News | Business outlined a summary of findings from a Statistics Canada Report articulating that immigrants outpace Canadian-born people in creating businesses. Many newcomers decide by choice to start their own business, while others find it an alternative to gaining meaningful employment. Either way, the road to starting a business has many maps. The trick is finding the right one for you.

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 9.52.09 PMThe New Westminster Public Library will host MOSAIC June 24 to discuss:

  • the feasibility of your business idea(s),
  • how you can assess the financial requirements,
  • what time commitments may be required for your venture, and
  • the potential risks

This is a great, short, introduction to small business in BC. You will likely walk away with enough resources to keep you busy for weeks.

If you would rather start your search online, head over to the Government of British Columbia ‘Managing a Business / Starting a Business’ website. Listed is a comprehensive list of tools to walk you, step-by-step, through the process of starting your own business. They also have a link to Small Business BC, an organization that helps entrepreneurs start and grow successful businesses. Small Business BC offers a number of workshops, seminars, speaker events and more to motivate and educate you at every stage of business.

Finally, for youth, S.U.C.C.E.S.S., offers a free business start up program: ‘Youth Business Innovative Idea Startups’ for 18-29 year olds. Participants are offered services in free coaching, mentoring, networking, business workshops, business plan writing, and business visits.

If nothing else, you can get the business idea out of your head to examine it a little more closely. Once you’ve paid it some attention, you may run with it, or put it to rest. Either way, it’s a win.

What are you waiting for? One of these roadmaps will kickstart your trip.


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Leaving a Legacy

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 9.50.02 PMMelanie Houlden, Chief Library for Surrey Libraries and staunch supporter of the Library Champions project, will soon be retiring. I don’t know her personally, but I do know that when she walks in a room, she commands it with radiating warmth and a big, welcoming smile. On departure, she leaves you with a desire to strive harder, and actively help those around you. She spoke at our last Library Champion’s celebration and, reading her words, I’m sure you will feel the same as I do – her departure will leave a hole that will be difficult to fill.

“I am here today to share with you my thoughts on the impact that the Library Champions project is having at Surrey Libraries – and the impact it is having on me as well.

The Library Champions program is a result of an idea that a person who was new to Canada had, someone who I believe lives in Surrey! She realized that many new immigrants don’t know about the wonderful services and programs that are offered at the library, as many newcomers come from countries where public libraries are not the norm or are quite different. Her idea was that newcomers could help promote the library to their friend and neighbors, and that their language and cultural expertise would be a big bonus…

As so, the Library Champions program was created. Champions act as ‘ambassadors’ for the library. They go out and to talk with friends, family and strangers about the library, often in that person’s home language. Champions hang out at recreations centres, grocery stores, places of worship, businesses, and social gatherings of all sorts and help spread the word.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Library has benefitted significantly from the Champions project. Because of the work of the Champions the Surrey Libraries have:

  • Expanded our reach into newcomer communities in a way we never could have done ourselves, because of language barriers, an incomplete understanding of cultural norms and the lack of a natural point of entry into some groups of people
  • The Library has seen an increase in the number of newcomers coming to the Library. Champions help people overcome the hesitation some might feel in visiting what must seem to be a very unfamiliar or scary institution, by offering a personal introduction and a friend to explore with
  • We have many new friends and supporters in the community, as more people come to understand the value of the public library and the services offered. Things that we consider a given are met with astonishment, for example, I understand that the idea that most libraries services are offered FREE of charge, is a point of delight for many
  • The Library has seen improved understanding from our staff and insight into the issues newcomers must contend with. We are creating a more compassionate and caring workplace. Staff can see the benefits for the people they serve and how the Library can be part of the solution – a huge motivator.

As I mentioned earlier, I had a chance to meet some of the Surrey Champions at a thank you reception. After shaking hands, I asked what I thought was simple question, as a way to get to know people better. I asked “What did you like best (or least) about the Library Champions project”

People are proud to be associated with the Library and proud to share what they had learned. That the Library could offer treasures that would benefit others.

I learned that participating in the program made Champions feel like they are a part of the community, in a way they had never felt before

I learned that Champions now had a larger circle of friends, both library staff members and other Champions that could help them navigate the complexities of making a new home for themselves. That there are people they can talk to about any questions they might have about how Canada works, without feeling foolish.

I learned that the title ‘Champion’ gave them a sense of purpose and self-confidence that has helped them to overcome other challenges in their lives.

I gained a much better appreciation of what it means to move to another country, what is lost and what is gained, and the complexity of dealing with a new country, a complicated immigration system, a new culture and a new language

I learned about the difficulties associated with building a new social network, when friends, family, jobs and familiarity with your environment is left behind

Always a proud Canadian, I now have an even stronger appreciation for our country and our province. I am especially proud of our libraries, the settlement agencies we work with and the people who help newcomers become more comfortable in their new home.

This project helps to create a sense of belonging and turns strangers into neighbors.

The Library Champions I meet are wonderful people, filled with appreciation, excitement and boundless enthusiasm. We simply couldn’t manage this without you.

I would like to end with a big Hello and a heartfelt thank you to each and every Champion in the room – You are awesome!”

We, at NewToBC, wish you all the best on your new journey Melanie. Thank you for taking a leading role on this Library Champion’s project and seeing the possibilities of what it could be. You’ve created a community. This project did, indeed, “turn strangers into neighbours.”


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