Multicultural library aims to engage and change

A free, multicultural library pop-up took hold of Chestermere July 7 to help encourage community, reading and a change of perception for the multicultural community in Canada.

“Why don’t we have a place to sit together and enjoy, and then spread the love together?” asked Syed Hassan, library organizer.

The library was another in a string of pop-ups that started April 21, on Hassan’s own lawn in the Calgary community of Saddle Ridge, with books donated from Calgary Reads and community members.

It’s Hassan’s mission to help people return to physical literacy. He said he encourages people to engage with each other, rather than bury their faces in their phones.

“Canada is multicultural and, from all around, people are coming here,” Hassan said. “We have to think about them, and we want people to come back to books.”

The library is a simple solution to a problem many newcomers face. Immigrants, particularly seniors, Hassan said, face obstacles with transportation and language. A meeting place for people from all over allows community members to connect.

In Chestermere particularly, resident Khaleel Bhatti thinks the library can help change how people view the multicultural community.

“We really, desperately needed something here in Chestermere because, otherwise, we can’t change people’s perception, we can’t make a difference, we can’t bring the community together,” he said.

Bhatti, who’s been working as a realtor in Chestermere since 2008, said he has been trying to bridge the gap between native-born Canadians and the foreign-born community in the City. He added, a run for City council and a number of volunteer jobs have failed to make the difference he hoped for.

When he heard about the library in Calgary, Bhatti said he reached out to Hassan to collaborate, and used his home to host the pop-up. The people of Chestermere, according to Bhatti, are private – “they come to sleep, not socialize” – but that didn’t stop neighbours from coming by for a book or to help out.

“To be honest, I feel back home now,” Bhatti said. “I feel like I’m a part of this community, I feel like, ‘Oh, you know what? This is my neighbourhood, this is my city, this is my people.’”

The library is one in a string of initiatives Hassan and his non-profit, Love with Humanity Association, have undertaken to connect the multicultural community of Calgary and area. His work led to Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi honouring him with the Mayor’s Special Recognition.

According to Hassan, Love with Humanity will continue to sprout up libraries around Calgary, and is currently planning a library for Edmonton and Medicine Hat, as well. Hassan hopes to eventually expand across the entire province, and will be looking for community support to donate books to each location.

For more information, visit the Love with Humanity Facebook page.

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