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Human Library teaches diversity to students

Second annual event brings together nine people of varying backgrounds from around Thunder Bay to discuss their successes and failures.
Yamandeep Malhi
Yamandeep Malhi (centre) of the Thunder Bay Sikh Society on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 speaks to students at Superior Collegiate and Vocational Institute as part of the Human Library event. (Leith Dunick,

THUNDER BAY – Second-year high-school students got a taste of different cultures and backgrounds during the second annual Human Library event.

The teens, who hailed from all three public board high schools, spent up to half-an-hour with a variety of different people at Superior Collegiate and Vocational Institute, including a Muslim imam, a group of local Sikhs, someone who escape the Pinochet regime in Chile and a municipal employee who has overcome a disability to take part in a variety of different sporting activities.

It was a fantastic learning experience, said 15-year-old Pippa Dunn, a Grade 10 student at the host school.

“I thought it was really nice to be able to see different points of view, many of them from minorities and people who have first-hand experienced it, and how they feel people in our society can relate to them better and how they can help them out in different ways,” Dunn said.

The youngster said its far too easy for people to maintain a close-minded view of those who might be a little different from them.

Hosting the Human Library, whose origins arose last year at the now-closed Sir Winston Churchill High School, said the more one knows, the more accepting one is.

“Especially being in high school, I think it’s good that we have a good range of the different type of people in our community,” Dunn said.

Classmate Jasmine Klassen called it an awesome opportunity to learn what it’s like to come from a different background, especially in a country like Canada.

“Canada is a very diverse area and knowing about different types of cultures helps everyone understand each other better,” Klassen said. “It makes it a much better community.”

Hopefully, she added, the lesson won’t be lost in adulthood.

“It definitely helps people, because once they learn this, it usually sticks with them for life,” she said.  

Presenter Yamandeep Malhi of the Thunder Bay Sikh Society, said he was thrilled to be able to share his background and religion with Grade 10 students, who might not have been exposed to it otherwise.

“It’s always good to give people perspective on how life works according to other religions,” Malhi said. “We are always surrounded with our friends, with one culture sometimes, and we don’t get that exposure to meet people from other religions and cultures.”

Noel Jones, the leader of experiential learning at Lakehead Public Schools, said the concept is international and offers the opportunity to meet with someone in the community they might see on a regular basis, but never share a conversation.

“Around the schools we’ve got nine different presenters, a very broad range from our community, who are telling stories, in particular about civic action, social activism and volunteerism,” Jones said.

This year’s focus is to let the students see what’s happening in Thunder Bay and that anyone and everyone can still contribute to their community, no matter what they have to overcome.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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