While conversations about Surrey’s Newton neighbourhood largely focus on the negative, a deeper look will show you that mutual community care is a central part of this area. 

A prime example of that is a new community initiative by registered non-profit Engaged Communities Canada Society (ECC).

Located in the heart of Newton, behind Newton Recreation Centre, stands a community-organized “Little Help Box,” filled with free essential items for vulnerable members of the community.

The box is operated and maintained by ECC and was developed in partnership with Simon Fraser University Health Sciences students.

“We try to deliver programming as low-barrier as possible, so that might mean delivering projects directly to community members or having projects that are absolutely free,” said Allysha Ram, Program Manager at ECC in an interview with 5X Press.

“What we noticed through some of our outreach work with the homeless community is that there are certain supplies that are in need that they might not necessarily have easy access to, items like personal care items, or food supports, or warm clothing.”

Students at SFU helped do research with ECC about what resources are already available, what barriers are associated with them, and what items are most urgently needed.

Ram says that at times there can be many barriers and restrictions to accessing supports, and this can make it difficult for community members.

The Little Help Box is intended to break down some of these barriers.

“When accessing supports from different agencies, there might be restrictions on hours, and [community members] have needs outside of those times. And sometimes, there’s a lot of heavy administrative paperwork when you’re signing up for different supports in the community, and that’s not always conducive to everyone,” she said.

“Barriers are not just physical, sometimes they are in the form of it might feel shameful seeking support and having to speak to someone in person and registering, or maybe standing in a line for food.”

Figuring out where supports are, signing up, and registering can be difficult, but with the Little Help Box, no registration is required, and you don’t need to ask anyone for help.

“You can go up to the box, grab what you need. You won’t be asked any questions and you can go on your way,” said Ram.

The box is just one of many projects run by ECC, to help support both vulnerable community members and youth. 

“That’s incredibly important to make sure we’re all taking care of each, other and perhaps for those of us who are in a more privileged position, it’s important for us to recognize there are other individuals who have needs that maybe we might not have directly,” she added.

“It’s so important for us to not only provide food services or hygiene supplies, it’s also about having that connection with the community and having those opportunities for dialogue and learning about, ‘how are you? What challenges are you facing? How can we best help you?’ And if we do that on an individual level, [we] are making our communities healthier and stronger.”

Other offerings that ECC provides include health education and resources, youth programming, programs around food security and essential products, and most recently, a cooling tent located in two parts of Newton during the heatwave.

To support or learn more about ECC’s work, follow them on Instagram @engagedcommunities.

ECC is also accepting donations. To learn more, email info@eccsociety.org

About the author

Rumneek Johal

Rumneek is a journalist, host and speaker. She is currently the BC Reporter at Press Progress where she focuses on systemic inequality, workers and communities, as well as racism and far-right extremism. Her previous work centers on asking tough questions within her community, starting conversation and chipping away at the status quo. Other focus areas for her work include the South Asian community, arts and culture, pop culture, and more. She is a proud Punjabi woman from Surrey, BC.

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