The Community Exchange in Altona will host Pembina Valley Local Immigration Partnership's (PVLIP) Connecting Cultures and Communities Celebration, for the first time, Thursday February 22nd starting at 6:30pm, bringing the community together for a special event.
PVLIP Coordinator Elaine Burton-Saindon says because so much of their work is unseen, the Connecting Cultures and Communities event is a chance for them to open up their doors, and to talk about the type of work they do, and why they do it.

This is the first time the event will be held in Altona, and just the second time in person, with the first in-person event last year in Winkler. The previous two to that, were held virtually. The evening will feature live music, dancers, cultural connections and a free buffet. The celebration is free to attend but there is room for only 100 people. With that in mind, registration is required, and can be done here.

"But also to showcase some of our local talent. Residents who live in this particular community, and what their story has been in their journey to settling here. We kind of bring it all together, and we want to make it a celebration. Everyone loves a party and we try to bring some fun to the event, as well as educate the community on what is important, and what you can do better to help your new neighbour, or maybe somebody in your workplace."

One thing that raises a lot of eyebrows is when the change that's happened in our region over the last 20 to 25 years is recognized. 

"When immigration first kind of started happening here to where it is now, that increase in growth is 148 percent due to newcomer growth," said Burton-Saindon. "This is collectively, not just one particular area. That growth has also translated into recognizing the people who do not speak English or French as a first language in our region, represent 33 percent of our population, with that kind of barrier, or challenge, to their possible experience to them living in our towns."

With the national average only being 12 percent, compared to our region's 33 percent, Burton-Saindon says they realize they have a lot of opportunities to create change.

Burton-Saindon said PVLIP is a regional attempt to help communities understand the experiences of newcomers, but to also understand the impact of immigration to our region.

~ With files from Chris Sumner ~

You can listen to CFAM Radio 950 Morning Show Host Chris Sumner's conversation with Elaine, below.