Chinese centre seeks more money depite struggles

Sarah Everest, Centretown News

Sarah Everest, Centretown News

Martial arts instructor Yu Zhuang (front) leads exercises at the Ottawa Chinese-Canadian Heritage Centre on Kent Street. The centre offers a variety of programs for residents.

Despite low turnout for a program aimed creating cross-cultural bridges, the Chinese-Canadian Heritage Centre is seeking a new round of funding beyond the $15,000 it received this year from the city for its youth after-school culture classes.

The program opened in the summer for teens aged 13-18, and after some early success with summer camps, organizers are disappointed with the lack of participation since September.

“For the summer camp there were a lot of kids and their parents that would come here, but since fall it’s been disappointing,” says CCHC chair Xing Huang.

“I think it’s the timing now with the cold weather and school and stuff.”

Located at 397 Kent St. in the old First United Church, the centre features a large gymnasium with a stage and a 300-seat auditorium, along with a basement of mirrored walls and one of the biggest Chinese libraries in the city.

The city-funded program offers after-school activities that include lion and dragon dance, hip hop dance, Chinese martial arts and Chinese calligraphy.

Huang points out that the program isn’t just for youth with a Chinese ethnic background.

“The program is open to the public, for both Chinese and non-Chinese, and we want more non-Chinese to come,” says Huang.

The main goal of the youth program is to promote a healthy lifestyle.

The hope is also to increase the understanding and communication between Chinese immigrant youth and other Canadians.

Wendy Tang, a co-ordinator at the centre, says that without enough participation from non-Chinese students, it’s difficult to bridge the gap between Chinese and non-Chinese culture.

“I think Canada is an immigrant country, and sometimes we need to let people understand different cultures to give them opportunity to know the culture,” she says.

For Huang, a large part of the problem is the cost of advertising in English media.

While the CCHC distributes flyers in both Chinese and English around the Centretown area to go along with ads in several of Chinese newspapers, the youth program doesn’t get much coverage in English newspapers around the city.

Huang points to one of the local Chinese newspapers in which the CCHC purchases advertising space.

“An ad in the Chinese paper is much cheaper. This one is almost free. But for the same size in the (Ottawa) Citizen, you pay too much,” he says.

With the Chinese New Year celebrations coming up at the beginning of February, Huang says he hopes that will create more interest for non-Chinese youth.

Plans are in the works to hold the celebrations on Parliament Hill, where the centre will be able to showcase the Chinese culture through artistic displays, food, and performances.

The dragon is a major symbol of power in China, and it will be one of the focal points of the upcoming celebrations.

“The symbol of the dragon in Canada, I think, is only beginning,” says Huang.

“We want to promote it and let more Canadian kids play around and learn the culture, so the dragon does not just belong to the Chinese but it belongs to Canada and all of the people.”

The CCHC will be hoping to put on a good show for the city in February in hopes of receiving an increase in funding next year.

The youth program is funded by the city’s annual $500,000 Community Project Funding Program.

The maximum allowable funding for the youth program was $15,000.

“For youth, this is a very big thing, not just for Chinese but for immigrant youth. We need to do something for them, we need more funding to continue,” says Tang.

Meanwhile, Tang also says the centre will be applying for a grant from the Community Foundation of Ottawa within the next month.

For now, Tang stresses the need for non-Chinese youth to try out some of the activities the youth program has to offer.

“By attending these activities, we hope that Canadian youth will understand more about Chinese youth and we just want that in a school environment, kids can get along well,” she says.