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Dedicated Community Member
For Aman Chandi–a Surrey, British Columbia resident–community has been a long-time inspiration and interest. When asked what inspires her, Aman writes, “I am inspired by the dedication and creativity of volunteers, artists, activists and students who work tirelessly to create radically inclusive spaces in Newton, Surrey. Additionally, I am inspired by the legacy of local heroes and artist-activist, Don and Cora Li-Leger, who conceptualized several art-led and place-based solutions addressing critical urban issues like food insecurity, homelessness, addiction and social isolation.”
In 2018, Aman was introduced to a unique community garden called the PLOT. Inspired by a dedicated group of volunteers and community activists who had brought the PLOT together, Aman has been an active community member ever since. Most recently, with the onset of COVID-19, her focus has been to create and co-organize a program, PLOT Care Baskets–a free delivery service of fresh food to vulnerable community residents with the goal of easing the difficulties associated with the pandemic. Aman secured a Neighbourhood Small Grant as well as an SFU Community Engagement grant to support this work.
Aman’s research supervisor, Urban Studies program director Meg Holden says about Aman that she “Brings remarkable energy and good will to every project she undertakes. Aman embodies a spirit of critical insistence and demand for justice, with a bright and authentic smile.”
Aman writes, “I am currently a graduate fellow with Community-Engaged Research Initiative (CERi) and am exploring ways of doing research in a truly reciprocal manner informed by art-based, participatory research methods. I want my research to be useful for my community and am always thinking of ways to develop creative knowledge translation pieces like zines, comic books and board games to make accessible what I am learning in the classroom.”
In addition to Aman’s work in engagement and advocacy, she has worked with various community garden users and beneficiaries including the City of Surrey, non-profits and funding organizations and with her academic community in Urban Studies. Initially, Aman was drawn to the Urban Studies program to develop a better understanding of how civic governments operate and the ways in which communication between grassroots groups and civic authorities can be improved. Through the program, Aman has been able to deepen this understanding. As she works to bring her Master of Urban Studies thesis to life in the coming academic year, the meaning and structures of community engaged scholarship and leadership in the context of a land-based citizen-led initiative like the PLOT will be at the forefront.
As Teresa Klein, a core member of PLOT, says that what stands out about Aman is “Aman’s ability to reach out, inspire others into action and enthuse change, while experientially exploring what it means to engage and build community, particularly when utilizing the power of unique spaces like the PLOT.” The Urban Studies Alumni Award for Community Engagement has been awarded to Aman for her continuous dedication to community engagement in Newton.