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Alumni Profile: Shane Sharma, Fall 2015

December 13, 2016

This profile is part of a series exploring the impact of SFU Semester in Dialogue alumni on our local and global communities.

What semester/theme did you participate in?
Fall 2015.

Tell us about one of your projects in the Semester and why it mattered to you?  In what way did the project have a positive impact on the community?

My group’s project was called YIMBY (named after a popular counter movement to social development projects called NIMBY). It stands for “Yes In My Backyard.” The focus of this project was to create a more inclusive environment along Commercial Drive via a pay-it-forward campaign. Essentially, patrons at a participating cafe or restaurant could purchase a voucher with any menu item on it and then pin that voucher on a board outside and a homeless person can redeem it inside. The mission was to boost the feeling of community and belonging so those who live there would try to bring more social housing to their area rather than protest it when it is proposed by the city, shifting the current model from reactive to proactive. The project mattered to me because homelessness is a major issue in Vancouver and seeing that we had a goal to end street homelessness by the end of 2015, it was a pressing issue. Another reason this mattered to me was because I had a lot of international friends at SFU and each and everyone one says the same thing at some point: The homelessness in Vancouver is far worse than most of the places they’ve ever been.

In what way did the project have a positive impact the community?
People were grateful. Honestly, we expected the boards outside of the businesses to get trashed, people to not participate, and homeless individuals to refuse to talk to us. The opposite happened. YIMBY vouchers were sold out fast and business owners had to continue to reuse them. Homeless individuals in the area praised the project, some of them took our promotional postcards and gave them out all over the community. Seeing people so happy about such a small project really made it all worth it.

What was one highlight from the semester?
My favourite part of the semester was hanging out after class and project work with the team and the rest of the class cohort. It’s great way to blow off steam once and awhile.

What are you doing now that you want to tell the world about?
I’ve been working on building my photography portfolio. From shooting with stylists to shooting concerts, I’ve been trying to find my style and turning it into a profession. Being the main photographer for CityStudio helped me realize I wanted to turn it into a career at some point.

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