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Malvern, Toronto, celebrates Tamil changemakers

Pictured: MP Gary Anandasangaree (left) presents note of appreciation to MFRC's Executive Director Josh Berman 

On 2 February, Malvern Family Resource Center (MFRC) launched its #MalvernMade campaign to celebrate and recognise Malvern changemakers who have made a positive impact in the community. The event was attended by notable politicians and community leaders including Scarborough – Rouge Park MP Gary Anandasangaree and Deputy Mayor McKelvie.

Malvern, a neighborhood in the northeast of Toronto, is home to a primarily South Asian and Caribbean population. The MFRC serves over 7,500 community members across Malvern and Scarborough each year. The diverse programs offered by the community center cover a large section of the Tamil population residing in the region.

Executive Director of MFRC, Josh Berman, highlights some of these programs,

“Our children’s program supports young and school-aged children to get a great start. Our Malvern Urban Farm drives fresh food access, our Youth Hubs provide safe and welcoming spaces for young people to connect. Our newcomer programs engage and support new community members, and our Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility team delivers targeted programming that focuses on building more equitable and just communities.”

Two of the changemakers celebrated during last Friday’s event include Balasingham Arumugam and Thilaksion Kumariah.

Speaking before the assembly, Arumugam described himself as "a teacher, a community leader, an advocate for empathy, connection, and healthy aging”.

Pictured: Changemaker Balasingham Arumugam speaking at the #MalvernMade event.

Balasingham Arumugam, known as “Bala” in his community, reflected on his life journey, that spanned continents and defied odds.

Arumugam speaks about being a teacher in Sri Lanka and the privilege of passing on his knowledge and passion to young minds. He states that the educational landscape drastically changed in the 70s and 80s, as Sinhala majoritianism ascended. This would lead to multiple anti-Tamil pogroms including the 1983 pogrom, known as Black July, in which over 3,000 Tamils were killed.

It was in these moments that he chose to not just be a teacher, but also a community leader. For Arumugam, despite the unimaginable difficulties that came with the Sri Lankan civil war, his commitment to the Tamil community was and remains unwavering.

In 2006 with the support of his son, he arrived in Canada, and settled in Scarborough. Upon his arrival, he quickly became aware of the pressing issues of isolation and mobility for the elderly population in Toronto.

Joining the MFRC senior program, Arumugam has been able to continue his community leadership in his new home. Today he actively contributes to MFRC, teaching programs that empower seniors.

In Thilaksion Kumariah's address he described Malvern as “a neighborhood with rich diversity, and its people, much like my family are bound by a common aspiration for a brighter future”.

Pictured: Changemaker Thilaksion Kumariah speaking at the #MalvernMade event

Thilaksion Kumariah is a 26-year-old community leader.

Settling in Malvern at the age of 5 with his mom and siblings, Thilaksion Kumariah speaks about the challenges of immigration. He states that despite the large Tamil diaspora in Canada, his family still felt isolated as they had to leave their community behind in Sri Lanka.

Kumariah states that his early years in Canada were ones of exploration and excitement and yet they were also marked by the challenges of adapting to a new country. However, he was able to turn obstacles into opportunities.

Discovering a passion for skateboarding, Kumariah led a nine-year advocacy effort to establish Malvern’s skate park.

He also recognised a strained relationship between the police and racialised members of the community. Working with MFRC, Kumariah was able to contribute to the implementation of body cameras.

Today, Thilaksion Kumariah works part-time at MFRC, as a proud Malvern changemaker he envisions a community promoting growth and self-expression.

Learn more about Malvern Family Resource Center here

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