Cultural Community Mapping

A range of community-specific learning events, where targeted cultural communities have identified their interest to gain the skills, knowledge and tools to map their community assets, core values, and aspirations for the future. This has resulted in a deeper knowledge of the way that cultural communities view their future and the ways they wish to move forward to live their core values in the Manitoba community of communities. 

This process will align with cultural communities than going forward to identify their own ways of seeing community well-being, and taking action together to achieve this outcome.

Cultural communities with CMCCF discover shared values in community well-being mapping initiative

People from three different cultural communities found they shared many values and perspectives about their current environment and what might be their future when they participated in a community culture mapping initiative in collaboration with the Coalition of Manitoba Cultural Communities for Families. (CMCCF)

“Even though we are diverse, we are not different. We should be working towards common goals. CMCCF has definitely helped to bring these issues to the forefront,” said Imran Rahman, a Winnipeg Muslim who was born in India and raised in Saudi Arabia.

“Once we know each other, the more we can help each other and the more at ease we are with each other. If you don’t know the broader community, you don’t know what to expect. That’s something CMCCF has done really well, to introduce people and communities to each other. I hope they keep that going,” Rahman said.

Bereket Abebe Assefa, who was born in Ethiopia, said when people from different communities come together and share information through the CMCCF asset mapping exercise “there is some overlap and some similarities. Looking at that and building on that is also something that is useful that we share among ourselves.

“Also, that connection that we made. If it weren’t for CMCCF, I wouldn’t know these other individuals who work with communities. Fantastic people, good people. We have started making jokes with each other. We have started building relationships. It adds to the connections and context we have. If I need help, if I want to ask questions, it’s helpful to talk with people who have their own experiences as well,” Assefa said.

Perla Javate, who was born in the Philippines, said the CMCCF asset mapping initiative led to a “better understanding among us. We do have a lot of commonalities. Working together, we’re hoping we can make things much better.”

Javate said she admires the persistence of the Coalition of Manitoba Cultural Communities for Families in fulfilling their mission to contribute to supporting and sustaining the flourishing of cultural communities and the health of their families.

“It’s very challenging to really bring together communities. We have a large number of newcomers coming from different communities. The work is still ahead of us. We are just the first three communities going through this process,” she said.

Martin Itzkow, Executive Director of the CMCCF, said the goal of our Community Asset Mapping Initiative is “to faithfully steward cultural community resources by continuously paying attention to them and creatively mobilizing them in ways that encourage their communities to successfully adapt to the unexpected.”

Martin Itzkow, Executive Director of the CMCCF, said the goal of our Community Asset Mapping Initiative is “to faithfully steward cultural community resources by continuously paying attention to them and creatively mobilizing them in ways that encourage their communities to successfully adapt to the unexpected.”

This is accomplished by “engaging each other to prepare their own community narratives regarding their strengths, capacities, their gaps or challenges, their current community situation and their desired future, which they need to address with others,” Itzkow said.

Itzkow developed Community Asset Mapping with Steven Feldgaier, Community Engagement and Allies Facilitator of the CMCCF.

Feldgaier said that it was very rewarding to see the three communities take on this initiative with such enthusiasm, commitment and perseverance and that feedback from those participating clearly indicated that they saw the far-reaching value in undertaking this process.

“When communities can come together to better understand their strengths, challenges and desired futures, not only does each community benefit but we all can learn from each other and collectively benefit as well,” Feldgaier said.

When Rahman, Assefa and Javate started to work with other members of their communities to map their assets, they faced divisions within the groups that could be based on geography, language, faith or political differences.

When people overcame those divisions to focus instead on shared values, they found they had plenty in common.

Javate said the discussion showed the Filipino community’s values of respect and family were top of the list.

“We put a lot of value on respect — especially around respect for elders, respect for people in authority and expanding that respect to respect for others,” Javate said.

“We put high value and importance on our families over and above anything else. We are known for our strong family ties and one sees that theme carried on by our people. You can see big families now because extended families were sponsored soon after the first member of the family has finally settled here in Canada,” she said.

Assefa is an environmental engineer, is active in his church and chairs the Winnipeg branch of Excel Family and Youth Society.

The people he talked with in the Ethiopian community “were interested in trying to find ways to work together. Unity is a word that people find somehow political, with respect to what’s going on back home. The alternative term we chose to use is cohesion — to be able to work together.”

Assefa called the asset mapping process “an eye-opener. We didn’t even know about asset mapping itself. We are trying to find out what we have, what we need, what we’re missing. One of the values of asset mapping is being able to assess that information.”

“Participants were interested in the exercise. People were engaged. They did not want to leave,” Assefa said.

Rahman said he was surprised to hear the word “Islamophobia” being used in his group’s discussion.

After completing his education in accounting and information technology in India, Rahman came to Canada in 2001, when he was 23 years old. He has moved steadily up the career ladder at A-list employers, including a major bank, Manitoba Health, Investors Group and the University of Manitoba.

During that time, he said he has never experienced any discrimination against Muslims. All the employers provided him the time needed for prayers during the working day.

But other members of the community said they had not been as lucky.

“There were some people in that group who thought they were not given all the opportunities, probably because of Islamophobia, or some kind of discrimination that happened. Maybe that’s something that needed to be addressed with our leaders, not just the community leaders, but the other leaders in the city itself. I think that fed into what is happening around the world today,” Rahman said, referring to worldwide protests calling for racial justice.

“Two of them stick out. A person mentioned that the way she dressed, wearing a hijab, she did not get an opportunity, even though she had the qualifications for that position. The other one was related to some folks who had been working here for a long time but were never given the opportunity to pray in their workplace,” he said.

Rahman, Assefa and Javate all want to work to help service providers better understand the values held by cultural communities.

Javate was a community liaison officer for Winnipeg School Division for 35 years, working with Filipino students, their families and the community. On the job, she dealt with the many differences between Filipino and Canadian cultures, interpreting between families and the community and the schools, to enable them to understand the differences in expectations and the educational systems.

Mental health issues are almost always handled within the family, using medical help as a last resort. Parenting is most challenging for newcomer Filipino parents. The more traditional ways of parenting conflict with contemporary ways and so parents find themselves learning new and acceptable ways.

Javate doesn’t expect service providers to adopt any of the Filipino traditions, but they must strive to understand them in order to reach their audience and communicate effectively with them.

“Our goal is to be able to present the asset mapping to service agencies in our community. A lot of our agencies operate with their own perception of who the communities are. What we’re doing now is we are defining our own community, to share it with them, so they will be guided by exactly what the community is, not just their perception,” Javate said.

“Hopefully, when we get the service providers on board, the relationship that we have now will be much better, because we’re hoping the services will be much improved. There will be a greater understanding of who we are. Hopefully they’ll be more comfortable relating with the different communities,” she said.

Community well-being was a recurrent theme for all three cultural communities. A vital part of that well-being is mentoring the younger generation to take on the mantle of community leadership.

Rahman said the three communities “are essentially very similar. We’re all concerned about the youth leadership in our respective communities — to make sure the next generation also understands what’s needed in the community.”

All of the asset mapping meetings were held in person last year and earlier this year. The Covid-19 pandemic halted in-person meetings.

All three participants said they look forward to returning to the process of analyzing their data and reporting back to the community.

Javate invited other cultural communities to join the coalition.

“What we envision is others joining in and going through the same experience and sharing their communities,” Javate said.

“This is important work we have to do. In the end we will be beneficiaries of the end result of the process. We’re hoping to be healthier communities and to have a community that is mindful and respectful of each other’s community values and hopefully coming up with common values moving forward,” she said.

Itzkow describes this initiative as having a number of stages. These three cultural communities are completing this first stage of our cultural community wellbeing initiative and there will be more stories to share in the future.

If your community would like to participate in CMCCF’s initiative and map your community, please contact Martin Itzkow, 204-941-9414.