After nine years of service, Shamim Shivji recently stepped down from the board of the West Point Grey Community Centre Association (Association). A true believer in the power of community centre associations to enact positive change, Shamim’s contributions continue to be experienced and enjoyed by community centre patrons today.

We spoke with Shamim about her experience and achievements while serving as a director, vice-president and president of the board. We also asked her what is coming up next in her life.

What initially drew you to WPGCC and the WPGCC Association’s Board?

I wanted to give back to the community that had supported our family business, Dunbar Lumber Supply, which has been operating in the neighbourhood for almost 40 years. I had also taken piano lessons at the community centre, and my nephews had taken various classes there over the years, so I was familiar with WPGCC and its beautiful Aberthau Mansion heritage house.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as a Board member?

Our work on the agreement to jointly operate WPGCC with the Park Board was very rewarding because we were able to successfully negotiate a long-term working relationship. But it was also the most challenging situation I had to deal with because it involved countless hours of work over several years with multiple community centre representatives who all had different priorities and objectives. The end result was a 66-page document known as the Joint Operating Agreement, which serves as a guide to operations of community centres across Vancouver.

Why is it important for WPGCC to be jointly operated by a community member-run Association?

The community centre staff do not necessarily live in the local neighbourhoods that are served by WPGCC. This is where the importance of the Association’s role becomes most apparent. The board is composed largely of people from the surrounding community who have connections in the community and use the community centre. Their involvement in WPGCC decision-making makes the community centre more representative and responsive to the needs of its users.

What are your greatest achievements as a WPGCCA Board member?

Aside from playing a role in negotiating the Joint Operating Agreement with the Park Board, I’m most proud of the detailed arts and culture needs analysis study that the board commissioned in 2017. It identified the community’s strong desire for enhanced arts and culture programming. The resulting document continues to inform program offerings at the community centre.

The accessibility pathway between the Gym, Pottery Studio and Aberthau was also a great win. Before it was in place, we were finding that some seniors and young parents were having difficulty travelling between these facilities. The pathway creates an accessible way for people with different mobility needs, including individuals who use walkers or strollers, to access our facilities. The Youth Room renovation; Pottery Studio upgrades; Gym storage unit and washroom upgrades; and free dance programs for seniors led by the artist residency of Desirée Dunbar at WPGCC are other Board-initiated and Board-supported projects that I’m proud to have played a role in achieving. I am very grateful for the support and dedication of the board members and the staff who worked so hard on realizing these projects. It was my privilege to work with them all.

What’s next for you now?

My plan is to continue serving grassroots organizations because I believe that such organizations are the foundation of our civil society. Towards that end, I am excited to have recently joined the board of the Friends of Jericho Arts Centre Society (FOJACS) that operates the Jericho Arts Centre. I also serve on the board of the United Players of Vancouver, the resident theatre company at the Jericho Arts Centre. As an alumni member of the Ismaili community’s Conciliation and Arbitration Board for BC, I serve by conducting mediations from time to time.

My law practice also keeps me quite busy. In the winter, I enjoy hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. And during the spring and summer, I like to relax by puttering around the garden and cooking farm fresh produce from the local farmers’ markets.