News  McGill bubble bursts

Campaign engages students with nearby neighbourhoods

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McGill students got to know different parts of the Montreal community last week as part of the Office of Social Equity and Diversity Education (SEDE)’s “Burst Your Bubble 2009.”

Events included walking tours of Parc-Extension and Chinatown, as well as visits to Kanien’kehaka Onkwawén:na Raotitiohkwa Mohawk Language and Cultural Center in Khanawake and the Multi-Ethnic Association for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities (AMEIPH) just south of Little Italy.

“With this weather we can all get stuck in the ‘McGill bubble’: [the area bounded by] Sherbrooke, Pine, University, and Peel. It is so convenient to stay in that little square,” said Adama Kaba, SEDE’s Administrative Coordinator. “But as a university student you need concrete experiences. You can come here and get As, but if you want hands-on experience you need to get involved.”

This year’s campaign included events at Macdonald campus for the first time, and allowed McGill students to interact with Montreal’s least understood community groups. The trip to the South Shore was especially ambitious.

“People don’t go out to Khanawake,” said Kaba. “There is still a lot of prejudice attached to the First Nations people. But the visit to Khanawake was the first to be completely filled. By going out there and meeting with the organization, we hope students can learn more about the community and how they can be involved.”

SEDE is staffed by a young, diverse, and enthusiastic group that joined students on Thursday evening’s visit to the AMEIPH.

“We wanted people to learn more about the issue and about the specific challenges some disabled people are faced with,” said Kaba. “If you are an immigrant with a disability, and you don’t speak the language, how do you find the services that are available to you?”

Although Thursday’s visit showed low student turnout, Kaba insists that “Burst Your Bubble” is becoming increasingly popular.

“This year’s response has been even stronger and the numbers attending the visits have doubled. We have already received feedback about our walking tours and people really enjoyed them. We also receive feedback from community organizations that let us know when students become involved with them.”

Last year’s “Burst Your Bubble” campaign allowed McGill students to learn more about Montreal’s past with a visit to Écomusée du fier monde, a museum of industrial and working class history at the corner of Amherst and Ontario. Students also learned to appreciate Montreal’s diversity with visits to the Côte-des-Neiges Black Community Association and Kapit Bisig Filipino Community Centre.

Food appears to be a key incentive in drawing support from students, with community organizations preparing a few dishes for each visit. Students visiting the AMEIPH discussed the organization’s objectives over an elaborate, multi-ethnic meal.

As well, the cafeterias in Bishop Hall, Douglas Hall, and RVC served “finger food from different countries” on March 5.

SEDE will wrap up the multi-week campaign with a “Community Connections” dinner and film screening in partnership with Radio Canada International on March 18, although the RSVP deadline has passed.