Disha Jain (UBC), Twinkle Pethad (Beedie School of Business, SFU)

Mitti Vancouver

Team members: Disha Jain (UBC), Twinkle Pethad (Beedie School of Business, SFU)

By 2022, South Asians had made up almost 15 percent of Metro-Vancouver’s non-white ethnic groups (McElroy, 2022). Many of these people are students and youth who immigrated for work-related purposes. Homesickness—one of the top five challenges facing international students in Canada—stems from cultural differences and adapting to new lives away from home (Bains, 2022). As South Asian female international students ourselves, we have first-hand experience of the pleasures and challenges associated with shifting to a new country. In June 2023, we launched Mitti, a non-profiting safe space project for South Asian women and transgender women in Vancouver. Mitti means soil (earth) in many South Asian languages, connecting us back to our roots and identities while emphasizing the concept of brown beauty.

Mitti addresses the needs of its community by providing an external support system and helping members make friends. We organize and host instructional, conversational, and festive meetups, collaborating with different community partners to provide diverse activities. Previous meetups have included chai circles, brunches, festival celebrations, dance and yoga workshops. We also invite previous attendees with various skills as workshop instructors, making the model sustainable.

Since June 2023, the project has gained momentum, hosting 14 successful meetups (each with about 30 attendees) and garnering interest from South Asian females across different North American cities. With an Instagram following of more than 5,600 members, the project’s positive impact is evident through the widespread interest and positive feedback received. We ran a survey and asked our attendees what inspired them to join Mitti. Over 1400 members shared their reasons, including: “I’m very alone and desperately need friends,” “I just want to enjoy life to the fullest" to “I miss my girls back home”. Previous attendees also expressed gratitude for Mitti’s role in fostering connections and improving their mental health.

Mitti’s long-term ambitions include introducing a volunteer initiative, launching an empowerment podcast, expanding to more cities, as well as launching campaigns to educate underprivileged South Asian females, contributing to breaking cycles of poverty in their families, among others.