Jas Cheema: Creating Change for a Better Tomorrow

jass-cheema“At the core of all the work I undertake is service or Seva: create change for a better tomorrow.  This is what motivates me and encourages me … a better tomorrow for one and all.”

Jas Cheema is a multi-talented South Asian woman who has spent much of her career helping families. She has a Masters Degree in Intercultural Communication and has spent the past decade working in the fields of Diversity and Community Engagement. DRISHTI sat down with Jas and asked her about her many endeavours and proudest accomplishments.

Q: Your work has been recognized through numerous awards, including recently the 2012 BC Libraries Association Super Trustee Award, the 2012 Diversity Award, and the 2011 Community Leader Award. What motivates you to give back to others? 

I have been really influenced by the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. These teachings have guided me through good times & bad. Learning to live in gratitude and trusting His guidance are two pillars of strength that provide me strength as I walk my path. In terms of awards, I’m humbled by all the recognition. It’s always great when someone recognizes you for the work you’ve done or the difference you’ve made. My response is always… it is He who guides us on this journey; gives us the wisdom and courage to continue when times are tough so it is only through Waheguru ji’s grace I am able to serve so the recognition is all His.

Q: Tell us a little about your current work / volunteer experiences

Currently I serve as Chair of the Literacy for Life Campaign for Surrey Libraries where we’re raising $500,000 for Literacy Projects, and I’m also a member of Surrey-Guildford Rotary and Surrey-North Delta Soroptomist which is an International service organization with a mandate to improve the lives of women and girls.

Through my consulting firm, Intercultural Education Services Inc., I help organizations, and individuals become better equipped to work more effectively in a pluralistic society. I have worked with government, NGO’s and businesses to develop strategies such as:  diversity framework/business case, public awareness and fundraising campaigns, marketing/community engagement strategies, culturally sensitive translations and education and  training programs designed to help staff work effectively across cultures.  I developed and taught a Masters course in Workplace Diversity for Royal Roads University and have facilitated an online program for UBC Centre for Intercultural Communication. 

Presently I’m working with the Surrey-North Delta Division of Family Practice to develop and implement a community engagement strategy for their South Asian Health Centre.  In providing culturally sensitive care, the clinic wants to hear from the community about what the services and programs should look like.  To the end we have organized focus groups with the local doctors, South Asian patients and families to get their invaluable feedback. At this time we’re looking at this feedback and developing priorities.

I’m also working with Seniors Comeshare Society to provide Caregiving Support to South Asian Caregivers.  

Q: You have done a great deal for the South Asian community – where do you feel more is needed?

There is still lots of work to be done.  Looking forward I really see the need to support families as they go through the ups/downs of life. Although we have some counselling services available we don’t have any structured education that gives families tools they can use/adapt. To this end I have started developing communication workshops geared towards building stronger family bonds and will soon be looking at supporting individuals through personal growth. 

Q: Any advice to DRISTHI’s readers – especially the youth in the community?

Success and joy start within…

When I look around me I see many who have achieved success in their lives.  But despite the financial successes many seem unfulfilled. We’ve spent a lot of money on the outer trappings of success but have failed to look within to find a deeper meaning for life. This starts with understanding who we are… one of the biggest lessons of life. This may sound easy but it’s a lifelong expedition…looking within to understand our patterns, knowing your values and beliefs, being authentic and then walking your talk will help you lead a life of integrity. Without this integrity, life is empty, full of dishonesty, fear, competition and jealousy.

We all need to connect with something more important than our own personal success… giving back and making a difference that is what gives meaning to our world.