South Asians raise millions for hospital
Feb 03, 2007

When the new Brampton Civic Hospital opens its doors later this year, it will be due in no small measure to the generosity of the South Asian community, particularly residents with Punjabi roots who live in the area.

The move to name the new emergency department after Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, gave Sikh fundraising efforts a boost – and caused a flap.

"I won’t lie. That (name) was a huge push for our campaign. It’s an emotional connection so it was really well-received in the community," said Ramandeep Grewal, a lawyer who is among those spearheading the Canadian Sikh Subcommittee.

Through a radio-thon, a dinner, and individual donations, the Sikh community has raised $3.4 million toward its goal of $10 million over five years. The Ontario Federation of Hindu Temples pledged $2.5 million and the Muslim Friends, $1 million.

"We’re just thrilled," said Maureen Flanagan Pool, director of development and new initiatives for William Osler Health Centre Foundation, under whose umbrella the new hospital falls.

She concedes that not everyone was happy with the naming decision. It caused some backlash, including editorials in local papers disparaging the move. Flanagan Pool dismisses the flak as "sheer ignorance" and insists it was based on numbers – 40 per cent of Peel Region residents are South Asian, including 50,000 Sikhs who live near the hospital.

"They’re not paying $10 million to have the emergency department named after their guru. It was done in good faith based on the size, the scope and magnitude of their community. It can be done for any other group based on size. Even if they didn"t raise a dime they’re not going to take the naming opportunity away from them."

The $550 million, 608-bed acute care hospital at Bovaird and Bramalea is in Brampton"s predominantly South Asian Springdale neighbourhood.

The community saw donating as a way to give back, as well as be actively involved in ensuring the new hospital was sensitive to their cultural and religious needs.

"It"s an opportunity to celebrate. The community has struggled, as a lot of immigrant communities do, and is on the threshold of moving to another era. Being able to contribute in this way, at this level, really shows that we have made this our home and we see it as our responsibility to give back," said Grewal.

They"ve recommended the new hospital offer Indian vegetarian meals, Punjabi and Hindi language translation and signage, larger family waiting areas, as well as expanded treatment areas for cardiac care, nephrology and diabetes, as these diseases are more prevalent among South Asians. "They"re definitely taking our input to make it more culturally sensitive," said Grewal.

About 450 people attended a $150-a-plate gala fundraising dinner in Brampton recently, dubbed An Evening in Punjab, complete with a bhangra maestro flown in from Vancouver. It featured a testimonial video of individual donors – from ordinary pensioners to wealthy businessmen, including Harpreet Sethi, a local developer who wrote a cheque for $500,000.

The Sikh subcommittee grew out of a South Asian round table the hospital convened in 2005, which also included Muslim, Hindu, and Parsi members.

The hospital is also reaching out to the Caribbean, Portuguese, and Chinese communities, said Flanagan Pool.

Trillium Health Centre pioneered South Asian involvement in hospital fundraising in Peel when it held its first Diwali gala dinner in 2002. The annual event has become one of Mississauga"s premier soirees.



Credited to Toronto Star

Prithi Yelaja Staff Reporter



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