Summer interns bettering the Surrey community

The federal government served up $500,000 in funding for summer jobs in Surrey Centre, tied to 154 jobs for students

Summer interns from the Downtown Surrey BIA and Surrey Christmas Bureau accept letters of recognition from Surrey Centre MP Randeep Sarai.

CITY CENTRE — As the summer comes to an end, so too do summer internships.

This year, the federal government served up $500,000 in funding for summer jobs in Surrey Centre, tied to 154 jobs for students between 15 and 30 within the riding.

The Downtown Surrey BIA had seven of those summer interns this year and Surrey Centre MP Randeep Sarai praised the business group’s internship program. “I actually use it as a model when I try to get other organizations to bid for this,” said Sarai. “To tell them what kind of work students can do, how they can improve the city and how it can improve their lives.

“This program probably has the highest value add of any government program that I have seen that has been delivered right down to the grassroots,” he added. “Every dollar is given virtually to non-profits. Those dollars automatically trickle down to the students, they get hired, and those students are able to give the community huge benefit.”

During a presentation of the students’ projects at the Phoenix Centre on Aug. 18, DSBIA’s Bonnie Burnside said, “We don’t just put them in a room by themselves and have them input things like data. We try to give them projects that are valuable to them and are valuable to us.

“We’re not just doing things for the businesses. That is our mandate and that’s what we focus on, but we do things outside of that.”

This past summer, the summer intern students at the BIA worked on a plethora of projects including a 62-page safety audit, an extensive emergency preparedness kit for businesses, produced the “New View” publication, an “Explore the George” video marketing campaign (see more at explorethegeorge.com), a restaurant guide and more.

They also had their hands in planning DSBIA events, such as Movies Under the Stars, free Zumba classes and community cleanups, helped organize a KaBOOM! playground build in Bolivar Heights (where a playground was built in just one day at 13670 115th Ave.) and assisted with a marketing campaign and logo for a forthcoming Surrey Museum fundraiser.

Alex Dibnah, an SFU criminology major with a police studies certificate, returned to the BIA as the “safety intern” this year for her third and final summer.

She has produced the BIA’s safety audit each year.

SEE THIS YEAR’S REPORT: Sense of safety waning in Surrey city core: business survey

She also worked on a report about the needle nightmare in the area.

“It’s definitely bittersweet,” Dibnah said of her time ending with the BIA. “This has been an amazing place for me over the last three summers. It’s because of them taking a chance of me that I’ve had so many opportunities.”

Dibnah said her future will probably be in the Surrey area, and likely in the arena of public safety. But first, she’s got to get through her undergrad degree, then focus on her masters.

“I haven’t ruled out becoming an officer yet,” she remarked, noting she already serves as an auxiliary officer. “I saw through the BIA the community outreach you can do and I developed a passion for it.”

Meanwhile, with the Surrey Christmas Bureau was summer intern Melissa Wing, who developed campaigns to help raise funds and donations for the non-profit.

Wing developed two initiatives: #beanelf and #sportyelves.

The Be An Elf campaign encourages people to give back year round.

“Surrey Christmas Bureau is here not just from October to December, but January to January,” said Wing. “Just like the elves work year round to make sure kids have the best Christmas possible. We wanted to mimic that idea to say how as a community we can come together to help low-income families an kids – and we can do that all throughout the year.”

Donating $20 a month for a year can make Christmas happen for a struggling family of four, she noted.

The Sporty Elves campaign, said Wing, is her “baby.”

Noticing the need for sports equipment for older children, she launched this campaign to garner more athletic toy donations this Christmas.

She’s arranged a promotion with TopSpin Tennis (17767 64th Ave.) and Cap’s South Shore Cycle (7917 120th St.), who offer shoppers the opportunity to donate $1 to go into a Surrey Christmas Bureau fund. Come Christmas, the bureau will go in and shop for needy kids with those dollars.

“But we’re also encouraging people to donate sports equipment on their own,” said Wing. “Why not donate a football? Why not donate running shoes or a hockey stick or something like that?”

Wing said she’s grateful to have been given the opportunity.

“It was tough, I was kind of a one-man band for a while building these campaigns from the ground up,” she said. “But it’s been one of the best summer jobs I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

The new federal government’s first budget increased the number of summer jobs that receive federal funding to 70,000 from 35,000 this year nationwide, and has earmarked $339 million over three years to fund the summer jobs program.

amy.reid@thenownewspaper.com

-With files from Tom Zytaruk