We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Gaya Nagendra, founder of The Peel Tamil Service Provider Network Information Helpline.
TamilCulture: Tell us about yourself.
Gaya Nagendra: I was born in in Jaffna, Sri Lanka and I came to Canada in 1985. I am a product of Immigrant parents who worked hard after coming to this country and made a successful life for their children. I am a practicing Community Service Worker in the Region of Peel. I have been in the field of social work for the past 11 years. I came from a background of working in the business field. My life took a turn in 2002 when I went to volunteer in my native Sri Lanka during the ceasefire period. During this time, I volunteered in a variety of settings from working with school aged children to young mothers. This was a life changing experience for me. After returning to Canada, I furthered my post-secondary education in community service work, group facilitation, addictions counseling, and adult education in order to work with a variety of clients. Besides my professional practice, I engage with a variety of groups in Peel and the GTA to work on issues that affect the greater community at large. I am fulfilled in what I do, and I have never looked back. I continue to grow both in my professional and personal life by meeting people from all walks of life that inspire me to do what I do. I hope to bring issues to the forefront and engage the community to talk about them. I hope to inspire people to be more active members in the community and environment that surrounds them.
TC: What are your hobbies and interests outside of community work?
GN: I have a passion and love for music and dance, from bharthanatyam to hip hop. In my spare time I dance teach my daughter modern dance. We dance together and enjoy making videos of our routines.
TC: As a settlement worker with the Sri Lankan Canadian Community Services, what are some of the barriers that you have faced?
GN: The barrier that I faced when I worked at Sri Lankans Canadian Community Services was explaining the Canadian system to my clients. The lack of knowledge of the English language for Tamil speaking clients made this system extremely difficult to comprehend, so I had to do a lot of translating in Tamil in order to get the message across.
TC: Rotary club of Airport is a Peel Region social service agency known for it's senior programs, women's wellness, youth life skills training and social advocacy. Can you tell us more about the agency and your role as their Director of Program/Services?
We work with everyone in the community from youths to seniors. We run programs that consist of everything from Seniors day programs to sporting activities to running breakfast programs. My role as director of Programs and Services involves networking, collaborating with the community, and grant writing for projects and programs we want to deliver throughout the year. A large part of my roles involves researching issues that affect this community. I also perform volunteer coordination for our community events. I am in charge of the development of our senior and youth programs. I work on a daily basis towards improving the program and infusing it with new ideas. My responsibilities also include staff scheduling, assigning duties and tasks, and reporting to my team and club members with updates on the progress being made.
TC: What are some accomplishments that you are proud of?
GN: I am proud that Canada has given me great opportunities to expand my dreams. I am proud that I serve the community in all capacities, especially by starting an information helpline in Peel region for Tamil speaking residents.
TC: Tell us more about The Peel Tamil Service Provider Network Information Helpline.
GN: Our mission and vision is to ensure that the Tamil Speaking population of peel region receive adequate client and family-centered services in the Tamil language at their comfort level. Through these services, we hope that the community of Tamil speaking residents in Peel will have a positive outlook on life. The reason why I started PTSPNIH is because I felt that there was a lack of social services in Peel Region that were offered in the Tamil language and through my information helpline, I am connecting everyone together.
TC: What social issues do you think require improvement and changes?
GN: I believe that the issues that require changes or improvement are mental health, diversity, and child protection. There needs to be more advocacy done in these areas and we need more allies to work with our community partnerships.