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South Asian Network of Simcoe hosts first Diwali event in Alliston

November 18, 2021   ·   0 Comments

On Saturday, November 13, the South Asian Network of Simcoe, a new group founded by residents of Treetops in Alliston, hosted a Festival of Lights & Diwali event at the Legion – the first event of its kind in New Tecumseth.

The family-friendly gathering had something for everyone, including food, kids crafts, loot bags, henna tattoos, music and dance, and was well attended – including members of New Tecumseth Council, Mayor Rick Milne and Councillor Donna Jebb.

“Our Diwali celebration was a huge success,” group and event co-founder Anjana Thom told The Times. “Everyone had a great time and we were honoured to host Mayor Milne and Councillor Jebb.”

The South Asian Network was created on October 15, 2021, as a private Facebook group by Anjana Thom, Komal Dahiya, and Anjali Sharma. Membership is growing steadily, as present members extend invitations to others.

“Primarily, we created this group to create a vibrant and safe space for the members of the South Asian community who share common cultural beliefs, practices, and values,” said Thom. “It is a vehicle to encourage social interaction and to ensure that the customs and traditions of the community stay alive.”

The group is open to anyone who wants to join, with current members representing the South Asian community, as well as West Indian, and a few other ethnicities.

Councillor Jebb is a member also. 

“We are an inclusive group that welcomes anyone who is willing to be a respectful part of our dynamic community,” said Thom. “The goal of the group is to create a community space for the South Asian community; it began as a social media group and still maintains that presence. Most members have not met each other in person except for the key organizers of the Diwali event who met to initiate planning.”

The first in-person event drew 60 attendees, a hopeful experience for organizers who say they’re looking forward to the New Year, and registering the group as a non-profit organization.

“We [hope to] become organized with a proper governance structure, including elected directors on the board,” said Thom. “We will meet as is necessary to plan and organize events such as fundraisers, cultural celebrations, social gatherings, programs for youth, and more.”

Within just one short month, the South Asian Network has grown from three members to 91.

“We are growing in numbers every day, so we expect to surpass one hundred in a couple of weeks,” said Thom. “Most members are motivated by the opportunity to connect with others from a similar cultural background, to be part of a larger social network, participate in cultural events, promote their business which may cater specifically to the South Asian community, and a few simply join out of curiosity and interest.”

Still in its infancy, group leaders are encouraged by their ability to plan, organize, and execute a Diwali event in just two weeks.

“This speaks volumes about the commitment, vision, and dedication of our members,” said Thom. “I think that this is simply a preview of many other activities that we will host in the coming year.”

“Diwali is an annual celebration that takes place in India. It is celebrated with a great deal of enthusiasm and ceremony. Like many other cultural celebrations in the South Asian community, Diwali is a community event, and families begin their festivities days before the big day arrives, and on the day of Diwali, many families begin with prayers at home followed by a lavish meal and putting out many diyas – small clay lamps lit with wicks soaked in oil,” explained Thom. “Then, it moves outside to the larger community where gifts and sweets are exchanged and fireworks light up the night sky well past midnight. Our event was meant to bring the community together to celebrate this festive occasion in a fun way. We had about twenty-two families participate. The evening was organized so there was something for everyone. There was a children’s craft table set up, which was a huge hit. It kept the children engaged and happy for the better part of the evening.”

The South Asian Network of Simcoe hopes to host a smaller-scale event over the Christmas holidays – once they have caught their breath, and rested up after an intense two-week planning period and spending spree.

For more information, or to join this private group, search “South Asian Network of Simcoe” on Facebook.

By Wendy Gabrek


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