Language matters. . . especially when it is your language in a new land. A significant asset of the 1000 Voices collaborative community hub is the welcoming staff members who are able to speak three to four languages each including Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Farsi and Pahari. The 1000 Voices settlement and employment counsellors are also multilingual, with languages spoken ranging from Spanish to Arabic to French
In northeast Calgary, 1000 Voices works to break the isolation experienced by many immigrant families. Founded five years ago as a collaborative project, 1000 Voices is well on its way to achieving that goal: more than 26,000 people walk through its doors asking for help each year. “We are geared to what the needs are in the community. We want to make sure they’re using the services, and that the community is feeling their voice is being heard,” says Aspen Family & Community Network’s Suzanne Pointer, who provides administrative support for 1000 Voices.
Located in the Genesis Centre, 1000 Voices is a collaborative community hub, providing human services to the communities north of McKnight Blvd. N.E., and forms part of the larger partnership of the Genesis Centre, which includes the Calgary Public Library and YMCA. 1000 Voices has brought together more than 30 agencies and approximately 25 community groups to serve residents in a space encompassing 10,000 square feet, with six classrooms, six counselling rooms and two common areas serving the north of McKnight communities of Castleridge, Falconridge, Saddle Ridge, Taradale, Martindale and Coral Springs.
Aspen Family & Community Network manages and operates 1000 Voices, which serves as a hub of social, cultural and human services for the surrounding communities, including settlement counselling, employment counselling and programs, crisis counselling; English as a Second Language – Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada; language conversation groups; services to meet basic needs; exercise groups; Legal Aid; and English and French language kindergarten readiness preparatory programs, among others.
In addition to this broad range of programs and services, notes Suzanne, one of 1000 Voices’ strongest assets is the fact that it’s so easy to access: 1000 Voices is in one location, and open seven days a week, from 8:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. Monday to Friday and from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Another strong asset, adds Suzanne, is the awareness, among both Aspen and agency staff, of the programming offered by 1000 Voices, as well as community programming. “That in itself is a huge asset, because we use each other as a resource to connect families to the proper services,” she explains. “In this area, we get lots of newcomers who don’t know where to go. 1000 Voices supports them. They can come and discuss their questions with us. Because we know all of the resources in the city, we can direct them according to their needs.”
Partnerships that are furthering the work of 1000 Voices include community groups that are collaborating and bridging any gaps in programming or services that might exist. In the future, if all goes as planned, Suzanne says, the hope is that 1000 Voices will become an even more vibrant community hub than it is today: “Giving to the community and having community members give back, with people feeling like they’re connected and able to support each other.