Reported by Lauren Boothby
South Vancouver Neighbourhood House is still thriving after almost 40 years.
SVNH was founded in 1977 with the goal of bringing together people of “different cultures, economic, religious and social backgrounds,” according to their website.
Originally focused on seniors groups and after-school programs for children, SVNH expanded to over 112 programs in 12 languages for diverse groups of people, with 638 volunteers.
New needs means new programs
Koyali Burman, a community connections settlement worker, said the house welcomes people from all backgrounds and is “like a second home for many people.”
Burman said the team continues to create new programs to reflect the changing needs of residents. Their latest focus has been on creating programs that help Syrian refugees.
“We are addressing the needs of the [Arab] community,” Burman said, and explained that the influx of Syrian people means more programs are needed for them.
Growing diversity in the community
When it was formed, the South Vancouver neighbourhood largely consisted of German, Mennonite and Italian families. Originally focused on seniors groups and after-school programs for children, SVNH now serves diverse groups of people.
An increase in South Asian and Vietnamese residents in the 1970s meant programs needed to expand to reflect the makeup of the community.
Office manager, Roberta Kihn, first started as a volunteer at SVNH when her daughter went to preschool there in 1989.
Kihn said the most important part of the organization is being able to listen to the needs of the neighbourhoods.
“They tell us what we need, it’s always changing,” she said. “We change with the neighbourhood changes.”
Excited for the upcoming 40th year
Michelle Lui, the community youth literacy programmer, is excited about SVNH’s upcoming 40th anniversary. “I’m really proud,” Lui said. “It’s definitely something worth celebrating.”
Lui is working with South Hill Neighbourhood Centre as well, and is hoping to expand their work with that centre and other neighbourhoods.