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Artists create colourful benches for ‘innovative’ project promoting diversity and inclusion

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WATCH: The COVID-19 pandemic has been a tough go for a lot of non-profit organizations in Calgary. Now, as Gil Tucker shows us, they’re getting a much-needed boost from a new effort to highlight the important support they provide – Jan 26, 2021

Calgary artist Doro Buch still has fond memories of the response she was met with after she moved to the city from Germany in 2012.

“When I came to Canada, to Calgary, I was amazed by all the people who always said, ‘Welcome to Calgary, welcome to Canada,'” Buch said.

Now, Buch is enjoying the chance to welcome other newcomers as she teams up with the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association to create a bench paying tribute to the association’s work helping families settle into their new lives in Canada.

Read more: Canada will need newcomers after coronavirus pandemic, immigration minister says

“This is such an innovative way to, one, promote the work we do with immigrant women and two, to cultivate diversity and inclusion in the community,” CIWA’s Fatima Narvaez said.

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The bench is part of a community project in Crescent Heights, with 10 benches going in along Centre Street North, each reflecting local non-profit organizations that promote diversity and inclusion.

Read more: The immigration conversation: How immigrants contribute to Alberta’s economic prosperity

“In the summer, we had a community group get-together, a bunch of people from Crescent Heights, to paint some benches in honour of Pride month,” the Crescent Heights Village Business Improvement Area’s Camie Leard said. “To sort of live our mission of creating a place where all people belong.”

The CIWA bench features a colourful map of the world painted on one side, which is adorned with special markers.

“The heart is where Calgary is and we can see the dots as to where our clients from CIWA come from, and there’s 164 countries,” Narvaez said.

“It’s very representative of how diverse our immigrant community here in Calgary is.”

CIWA says supporting those families is now especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more: They were ready to start a new life in Canada, then the coronavirus struck

“Some of the barriers or challenges that we are experiencing in the community may be aggravated because of the impact of COVID,” Narvaez said. “And so we hope that this bench would help ease the transition for immigrant women, girls and their families.”

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The benches will go in along Centre Street North, between 8th and 14th Avenues, to be unveiled at the  Crescent Moon Festival, which runs during the evenings of Feb. 12-14.

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