City of North Van partners with organization that delivers energy education for newcomers

If you can’t take the heat, you should get out of the kitchen. But what happens if you don’t understand how the heat in your home works in the first place?

With summer drawing to a close and people bracing for colder days ahead, an organization that provides energy conservation and education programs is trying to connect with newcomers to the North Shore whose primary language might not be English.

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“When you’re unfamiliar with a system of energy, or your house, when you come to a new country and you’ve never had a furnace before, an air conditioner, you don’t know what that dial on the wall is, it makes it really tough for you to feel comfortable and settled in your home,” says Yasmin Abraham, co-founder of Empower Me. “There’s so much excellent information out there, but if it’s only in English that’s a real barrier for a lot of our neighbours.”

Abraham, who’s originally from North Vancouver, founded Empower Me in 2012.

The organization has been partnered with the City of North Vancouver since last year to deliver workshops to city residents on everything energy related – from how thermostats work or how insulation can help save money and increase efficiency, to what kinds of government energy rebates are available to people who live in British Columbia.

“Partnering with Empower Me is a great opportunity for the city to engage with residents who are sometimes more difficult to reach, like those who are new to our community,” stated city spokeswoman Stephanie Smiley, in an emailed response. “We are connecting new residents with important resources that they may not otherwise know are available to them.”

Immigrant residents represented 38 per cent of the City of North Vancouver’s population, according to 2016 census data, including many recent immigrants from Iran and the Philippines.

While many immigrants obviously read, write and understand English without difficulty, there are still many who’d benefit from learning more about different heating and cooling systems, energy bills and other important home habits in B.C., such as curbside recycling, composting and water conservation, in their native languages, according to Abraham.

“There’s a lot of really important energy and education programs out there, but usually they’re designed in a way that can leave a lot of people behind,” she says. “We work with the community to make sure the education is appropriate. We hire people in the community, known as our energy mentors, and they are really the heart and soul of this program. They are the ones that deliver this information on behalf of the City of North Vancouver to their own community.”

In the era of COVID-19, what were once workshops delivered in-person at community centres, cultural events and other public spaces, have transitioned to online events and seminars for the time being, says Abraham.

However, with the pandemic compelling more and more people to stay home, especially during the upcoming cooler months, energy bills are likely higher – and the need to know more about how to save money while embracing energy efficiency is all the more important, she says.

“Finances are tight right now,” says Abraham.

Visit empowermeprogram.com/bc to learn more about Empower Me programs or register for an upcoming workshop on energy consumption delivered in one of many languages.

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