Instead of allowing cultural differences to stand as barriers and obstacles, C3 Korean Canadian Society uses them to create bridges of understanding between cultures, contributing to the greater multicultural landscape in a positive way.
The society was founded in 2003 by a group of Korean Canadians, who grew up with the Korean cultural heritage of their parents and the vibrant diversity of Canadian culture. They understood innately the importance of spanning differences and were eager to engage in community service through volunteerism. Led by our first chair, Yonah Martin (now Senator Martin), C3 quickly engaged the community and inspired a new generation of Korean-Canadian volunteers. Yonah’s passion, drive and dedication to C3 and the community at large, made her instrumental in setting up the foundation for C3 Society’s growth over the years.
Her motto of ‘100% Korean and 100% Canadian’ (borrowed from the esteemed Sandy Lee, the first elected Korean-Canadian MLA in the Northwest Territories) and ‘the heart of C3’ remain as driving forces for C3’s team to this day.
Based on the multicultural ideal that we are an interdependent network of individuals in a rich and diverse society, C3 Society encourages cultural understanding and leadership through service, education and mentorship, actively participating in community events in partnership with other organizations and groups.
This group of volunteers worked tirelessly to run its programs that include educational camps for children, leadership conferences for post-secondary students and young professionals and mentorship programs for high-school youth. They are motivated by the belief that youth of different cultures are better able to connect with each other if they begin by embracing their own cultural heritage, whatever that may be, and then sharing that valuable history and resource with others.
As a bridge between generations, cultures and community, C3 continues to examine issues that have a real impact on our lives now and into the future:
- As the generation raised in both Korean and Canadian societies, how can we have a strong voice in our community?
- How can we act to ensure our children and children’s children embrace and understand their roots?
- How can we provide mentorship and guidance as Korean Canadians to younger generations, when we ourselves had none growing up?
- How can we engage other communities and proactively engage Korean Canadians in the greater society at large?
With these issues in mind, C3 began working with both Asian-Canadian and mainstream groups. C3 has collaborated and partnered with the following organizations to promote events to the Korean community and encourage Korean-Canadian volunteers to assist and build relationships:
- CIBC LunarFest
- Vancouver Asian Film Festival Society
- Association of Korean-Canadian Scientists and Engineers
- ExplorAsian / Asian Heritage Month Society
- Port Moody Arts Festival
- The Vancouver International Children’s Festival
- Korean Heritage Day Festival / Korean Cultural Heritage Society
- Korean Society of BC
- Vancouver Korean Dance Society
- Vancouver Korean Canadian Scholarship Foundation
- The Asian Canadian Journalists Association
- Asian Adult Adoptees of BC
Working towards the goal of fostering greater understanding, C3 also regularly participates in roundtable discussions and forums on multicultural issues, representing the local Korean Canadian community. This has included participation in meetings with the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, the Asia Pacific Foundation, the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea, the Province of British Columbia and the Government of Canada. C3 has also served on advisory councils and committees, including the Crossroads Hospice Society and the Korean Community Workers Network.
In 2004, C3 began working with Korean organizations by providing volunteers and promoting events to other communities and the general public at large. It was at this time, we teamed up with the Korean Cultural Heritage Society to establish the Korean Heritage Day Festival as an annual cultural celebration in the Tri-Cities that promotes cultural understanding between all communities in Metro Vancouver. It now welcomes over 10,000 people, with numbers growing each year and celebrated its 10th year in 2011. For a number of years, C3 Society also provided volunteers to assist in the annual Lunar New Year Festival in Burnaby at Lougheed Town Centre Mall. In 2011, C3 participated in the CIBC LunarFest, a follow-up to the cultural programs initiated during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. C3 coordinated several cultural performances as part of the LunarFest’s opening ceremonies in addition to providing information on Korean Lunar New Year traditions through the festival’s materials and an information booth.
In 2005, C3 began working on its own events, launching the Seminar Series to educate Korean-Canadian voters on Canada’s electoral process at the federal, provincial and municipal levels through non-partisan information sessions, all-candidates meetings and distribution of general information on the electoral system.
Understanding that food can often serve as a simple but effective cultural bridge, C3 also launched fusion cooking classes. The classes taught Korean cuisine to aspiring cooks of all backgrounds and the success of the cooking series led us to further engagement with the wider community, which we hope to continue in the future.
C3 also believes events focused on arts and culture often serve as a valuable means of building bridges of understanding. In April 2006, C3 presented an English version of a Korean musical to a sold out audience for the Port Moody Arts Festival, which prompted three additional performances. In 2010, C3 partnered with the Vancouver Asian Film Festival to present the screening of Resilience, a documentary film about the experiences of a Korean American adoptee.
One of the first major programs launched successfully by C3 was Camp Korea in the summer of 2006. As the only one of its kind in Canada, we welcomed 80 children (7 to 12 years old) and more than two dozen counselors (17-25 years old) at a campground in White Rock to learn about Korean heritage through activities, lessons and, of course, food. There were first-, second-, and third-generation Korean-Canadians who participated, as well as individuals of multi-ethnic heritage and those of Korean heritage who had been adopted into families of non-Korean heritage. There were also those who had no Korean cultural heritage links, but connected through friendships and a desire to learn about one of the fastest-growing immigrant groups in the province.
In 2008, we added counselors in training (CIT) component to Camp Korea, allowing almost a dozen campers to return to the camp experience. They receive guidance and gain leadership skills from the older staff counselors and this has become a three-stage mentoring and leadership structure that benefits participants at all levels. Campers have fun in a positive environment that encourages them to embrace their heritage as a strength. Counselors in Training are mentored by Staff Counselors to carry that healthy sense of identity into leadership roles that embrace cultural diversity. Staff Counselors benefit from taking a leadership role and sharing their experiences and knowledge with the next generation.
Camp Korea recently marked its 6th year this past summer and the program continues to attract children and youth of all ages and backgrounds.
Since its start in 2006, the C3 Leadership Conference has become one of C3 Society’s largest annual events. C3 Leadership Conference provides an opportunity for post-secondary students, recent graduates and young professionals from Metro Vancouver to participate in workshops and seminars on leadership and explore potential career paths. A mentorship program connects students with 1.5 and 2nd generation Korean-Canadian professionals in a variety of fields, including media, education, business, dentistry, law enforcement, media and fine arts.
The goal of the C3 Leadership Conference is to facilitate personal and professional development and, by doing so, enable delegates to reach their full potential. This is a strong opportunity for delegates to tap into the invaluable knowledge and expertise of successful individuals from a wide variety of professions, brought together for one day to help people make that next big leap forward in their careers. Past keynote speakers include: Mi-Jung Lee of CTV, Raymond Chun of TD CanadaTrust and Paul Bae, Korean-Canadian comedian.
We believe role models are an important part of the positive reinforcement youth need. So in 2008, a mentorship program called Youth Can Lead came under the umbrella of C3. This group helps recent immigrant students navigate the cultural landscape of Canada, by pairing high-school students with mentors who are university students and young professionals. It’s a safe and practical relationship in which students can better understand their school surroundings, eliminate racial stereotypes of others and reach out to students of non-Korean descent.
C3 Society is a vital part of encouraging positive role models and cultural diversity.