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People of SFU: Meet Trisha Dulku, volunteer wrangler extraordinaire and coordinator of civic and community engagement

June 08, 2021
As coordinator of civic and community engagement with SFU’s Office of Community Engagement, Trisha Dulku (pictured at Surrey's Fusion Festival), works with community partners and SFU students and alumni to bring together knowledge and resources on key issues affecting Surrey's City Centre and surrounding neighbourhoods.

As a coordinator of civic and community engagement with SFU’s Office of Community Engagement, Trisha Dulku works with community partners and SFU students and alumni to bring together knowledge and resources for positive impact primarily in Surrey.

Through her work with the SFU Surrey – TD Community Engagement Centre (SFU Surrey CEC), Dulku mobilizes university and community capacity to address key issues affecting Surrey’s City Centre and surrounding neighbourhoods. With a focus on supporting children, youth, families and Newcomers to Canada, she manages programs reaching more than 2,000 community members per year, and she supports 150-200 SFU student volunteers every semester.

That’s a lot of face time. But Dulku has a unique gift for harnessing the power, energy, enthusiasm and vibrancy of SFU students to build trust and accountability with community partners. As an avid volunteer herself, she knows the value of putting one’s skills and values to work in initiatives that make a positive difference in society. As she puts it:

“I love to see students develop personally and professionally because it broadens their scope beyond the classroom. Students get to acquire soft skills that make them more employable while making a difference in the community at the same time! The beating heart and soul of what I do is to help build future leaders, future change-makers, and future responsible civic-minded citizens.”

Dulku, second from right, at the Racing Readers program, has a unique gift for harnessing the power, energy, enthusiasm and vibrancy of SFU students to build trust and accountability with community partners.

Seems pretty straightforward right? What people don’t often see is Dulku’s own “hard skills” that shine every day of every week. Whether she’s sending meme-laden emails to a growing list of more than 1,200 potential volunteers, managing the ins and outs of digital registration, mobilizing guerilla marketing on Facebook, or supporting SFU students with the production of (um, awesome) YouTube content for kids, Her capacity for learning what needs to be learned and doing what needs to be done gives the SFU Surrey CEC tremendous on-the-ground capacity. Her deep knowledge of community programming, partnerships and volunteer capacity really shone when the COVID-19 emergency began, enabling her to lead and support the transition of programs to a virtual format quickly and responsibly.

“I realized right away that off-site virtual volunteering would need to have different structures in place to ensure that the supervision and support that volunteers need for their professional development would still be present so that they, in turn, could engage youth and newcomers in the community effectively.”

She not only transitioned programs directly run through SFU Surrey CEC, but she also supported SFU’s community partners in their transition to online program delivery, too, a challenge which required an intentional approach to working with community partners: “It was vital to maintain connections with partners who had the expertise with the youth, families, and newcomer adults who took part in many of our programs,” she said. “Discussions with stakeholders involved reassuring them and using an asset-based approach to see what strengths and capabilities we each could bring to the table.” While it takes a lot of work, it’s clearly worth it to Dulku, “Coming to a collaborative consensus where everyone felt ready and safe to be involved took time but was ultimately rewarding.”

Dulku, left, taking part in the Racing Readers program, has a deep knowledge of community programming, partnerships and volunteer capacity that really shone when the COVID-19 pandemic began, enabling her to transition the programs to a virtual format quickly and responsibly.

Here are a few of the organizations whose partnerships with SFU have been strengthened through Dulku’s work: Surrey School District CSP, Surrey School District Welcome Centre, Surrey-White Rock Literacy Task Group, DIVERSECity Community Resources Society, City of Surrey, Red Fox Society, S.U.C.C.E.S.S. BC, Learning Buddies Network, MOSAIC BC, Kids Brain Health Network, Friends of Simon Tutoring Project.

When asked to share the best part of this work, she says:

"Since people can log in to program sessions remotely, community partners report that participant attendance numbers have skyrocketed and we've certainly seen that on our end with volunteer application numbers. Also: many volunteers, in their end-of-semester reflections, have reported enjoying virtual volunteering during the pandemic, as they find the regular commitment has helped keep them motivated and connected to others, especially in the local community when social distancing measures are in place, and the fact that making a difference helps them feel like they can manage their own well-being and anxiety."

Partner-focused with no exception. So we asked Dulku to share a non-work-related goal:

"A current short-term goal is for my fiancé and I to ensure we are able to have a meaningful and safe celebration for our upcoming wedding that follows COVID safety guidelines. Current discussions are around how elements can be virtual and socially-distanced, while still honoring some important cultural traditions. A long-term goal of mine is to develop a financial literacy, mentorship, and empowerment program for young women of color. I've seen the impact and repercussions that patriarchal and cultural expectations of women being expected to outsource their money management to a male member of their family (like a father, brother, or husband) have had - like the trauma and hit to ones self-esteem. I'd like to help women of color from immigrant upbringings begin considering their own power and capability to manage their money and thrive. Financial well-being is an important part of self-care and thinking about your finances shouldn't feel like a scary topic that should be kept secret!"

If you’re an SFU student who is interested in volunteering with the SFU Surrey – TD Community Engagement Centre, sign up for the newsletter today!

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