For mom and daughter duo, Alison and Bella Verghese, the Kerrisdale Community Centre is a big part of their lives. When their family emigrated from Australia to Canada several years ago for her husband’s career advancement, Alison said it was initially tough because she was unable to work while waiting for her permanent resident status. Moving to a new country can feel overwhelming and lonely, especially when you don’t know anyone.
When they moved into the neighbourhood, the community centre was one of their first stops. Bella, then eight years old, began taking a range of programs from rhythmic gymnastics to ballet, taekwondo, soccer and summer camps. “We were welcomed and made to feel like we belonged from day one, when we needed to get our bearings. We found many opportunities to integrate and make new friends in our local community, which included a two-year stint for Alison volunteering on the KCCS Board of Directors. “I can’t tell you how much that experience meant to me and my family,” said Alison. “It was life-changing – as I now work for the Society!”
For Bella, now 13 years old, the community centre feels like it has always been a part of her life. She explained: “I have taken so many programs and spent so much time here – it’s like my second home. From meeting my first BFF to completing a certified babysitting course, you can find almost everything you need in this centre.” She added: “I have always felt like I belong here, so I make sure that I help other people feel welcome too.”
What Alison (and Bella) Want the Park Board to Know
“We want them to know that many people rely on this community centre. Kerrisdale is one of the most successful community centres in Vancouver and needs to be replicated as a model of success, rather than be denounced by the Park Board.
This is an inclusive centre because it doesn’t matter what you do, who you are or where you come from – you are welcome here. This is an important thing for people to feel – and we are proud to tell all of our Aussie and international friends about the unique community centres in Vancouver and why there are possibly no other concepts like them in the world that we know of. We don’t want the Park Board coming in and changing this.”