President’s Report 2022
My fellow members and friends. It is with great pleasure that I join you today in celebrating our achievements and accomplishments, recognizing our challenges, and looking forward to the amazing work that VAHMS will bring in 2022.
If six years ago I had told you that we wouldn’t see each other in person for more than two years, that our entire organization and explorASIAN festival would be remote and shift to virtual… would you have believed me? …probably not. Without a doubt, the way we work today is very different from when I joined the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society.
Since the COVID-19 crisis began, our normal was challenged and our lives changed. The prolonged local shutdowns put pressure on all of us, especially among Asian communities, who suffered and continue to suffer increased racist acts.
For us, at VAHMS, these past two years, we had to learn and work in a different environment. We cancelled, rescheduled, and moved online our most important events and meetings to deliver our programming, and to keep our audience informed. The funding and partnerships opportunities also changed, making it difficult to produce our only fundraising event. All the challenges we faced these past years to keep the organization afloat have shown us just how important everyone is to our work, and that our ability to adapt to rapid change is vital if we want to continue being relevant to our audience.
Through the years, the explorASIAN festival has supported Pan Asian arts and cultural heritage and has contributed to the spirit of solidarity and social cohesion among our diverse communities. We are very proud of our past successes and recognize the continuous need to reflect and improve to overcome future challenges, to keep the organization relevant, to increase our membership basis, and to strengthen and maintain our relationships, especially with Pan-Asian communities, and Indigenous peoples. It is my hope that our members, volunteers, partners, collaborators, sponsors, and donors large or small, will continue to play a vital role in increasing VAHMS’s impact and reach in the community.
In 2021, our initiatives and events were centred on creating opportunities for the public to learn more about Pan-Asian Canadian communities, foster inclusive representation, and develop a more dynamic organization. Our board meetings and committees continued working virtually to plan and deliver a high-quality 25th Anniversary celebration, increase partnerships and relationships, obtain more grants, and propose fundraising campaigns.
Internally, it was all about Board Governance and implementing procedures and strategies to produce a comprehensible 2022-2025 strategic plan, a board manual, job descriptions, and a well-planned budget that helped us control expenses and manage to pay professional fees to performers and artists. Externally, our Executive Director and Committee Chairs coordinated volunteers to help with the social media posts and content, silent auction, and events happening in different provinces.
Important highlights from our 25th Anniversary celebration were the many letters of support and videos we received from the three levels of Government, Pan-Asian consulates, and SFU Director, Laurie Anderson. Senator Vivienne Poy, and Curator, Zainub Verjee in their remarks, accoladed the many years of VAHMS serving Pan Asian Communities in British Columbia.
We proudly celebrated our Silver Anniversary with a successful virtual explorASIAN Festival programming, a special video, a VAHMS retrospective recalling the many successes of the organization, and a virtual Recognition Awards Ceremony that included our first virtual auction. We officially launched the 2021 virtual Interconnected Spotlight for Artists, a collaborative project that supports diversity and inclusion among the Pan-Asian art community. Since 2019, the INTERCONNECTED project has opened opportunities to virtually exhibit Asian Canadian art and has promoted the creative expressions of talented emerging and professional Pan-Asian Canadian artists. This year, this same project will emphasize community interaction by providing exhibitions and networking events for artists, galleries, and the public.
In 2021 we partnered with various Asian Heritage Month Societies and art organizations in different provinces to create the national CanAsian Arts Network Council, which will open even more opportunities for Pan-Asian artists to work and be recognized. In collaboration with these organizations, we also produced the Critical Conversations series aimed at giving artists a voice to address their challenges. This Fall, we will virtually participate in the 3rd National Asian Heritage Symposium in Edmonton, Alberta, and in 2024 hopefully, we will produce the 4th National Asian Heritage Symposium here in Vancouver.
VAHMS priorities this year are the commitment to producing meaningful events that will celebrate heritage, appreciation of values, and connections while reflecting on difficult topics such as identity, equity, representation, and inclusion. Internally, we will remain vigilant that we increase our financial capacity, that our expenditures are calculated to reduce risk, that we prioritize community engagement and volunteer recognition by keeping the principles of Respect, Diversity, and Inclusion at the heart of our work.
To achieve our organizational and programming goals, we have partnered with Vancouver Pride Society, SFU Vancouver Campus, SFU David Lam Centre, SFU Global Asia, SFU Indigenous Studies, the Consulate of Indonesia, and more cultural and organizations. We will strive to engage and maintain a committed team of qualified Board of Directors.
After six years working on the VAHMS Executive Board, first as the Chair of the Programming and Partnerships Committees, and later as the President of the Board; the time has come for me to leave my position. I hope that during my tenure, I was able to move the organization forward, bring together a team with a vision for the future, a team who will care and work together in pro of the Pan-Asian arts and culture and the celebration of Asian Heritage Month in Canada.
One key takeaway from my six years collaborating with VAHMS is that when we work together, we can do extraordinary things. Every one of you has helped me thrive as President of VAHMS, and I know that, by embracing my new roles as Curator, Advisor, and Past President, we will continue to significantly overcome obstacles and achieve amazing things.
To my fellow Board of Directors, Advisors, Executive Director, Members, and Volunteers thank you for your professionalism, hard work, and support over the past six years. Let me finish by saying how privileged I feel to have had the opportunity to serve VAHMS and let me echo Saint Paul in saying that “I have run with perseverance and have finished the race”. Whether I have finished it successfully or not, is not for me to say – I will leave it to my fellow VAHMS members and the community to be the judges.
Leticia Sanchez, VAHMS President, January 16th, 2022.
Annual President’s Report 2021
Posted on January 16, 2021: On behalf of the Board of Trustees of the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society, it gives me great pleasure to present our Annual Report.
Since its inception, VAHMS has opened dialogues about equity, inclusion, diversity, and collaboration by inviting our diverse communities to come together and celebrate the many Pan-Asian heritages and cultures that enrich the harmonious diversity of Canada. explorASIAN Festival has provided a means for those who identify as Asian & Asian Canadians to show their talents and access audiences. It has encouraged public and private educational institutions and cultural organizations to collaborate in celebrating Asian Heritage Month.
Today, we recognise all the accomplishments that previous board members, senior advisors, partner organizations, sponsors, donors, and volunteers achieved in past years. At the same time, we congratulate the VAHMS team for the good work, and great success achieved by transforming and delivering a complete virtual explorASIAN Festival in a challenging 2020. 2021 is a crucial year to improve many aspects of the organization; especially, the challenging situation on hand to maintain financial stability. This is a year to take strong action and come forward in support of VAHMS to raise the much-needed funding.
VAHMS is in its third year of the Strategic Direction 2019-2021, the implementation and completion of our goals has seen periods of success in difficult times. We have reached great milestones in terms of growth by presenting more than 50 events in May, connecting with audiences at local & National levels, the events we produced, and the increase on our online platforms’ attendance. More importantly, the learning opportunities have enriched the organization and its explorASIAN Festival.
On that note: The graphs show the increase in audience reach from 2017 to 2020, as well as the Social media increase in 2019 and 2020. Last year’s “Pan-Asian Cultural Connections” aimed at furthering VAHMS vision and expanding integration and sense of community. We, as many other cultural organizations, have faced great challenges, but we have been resilient to adapt and learn from whatever the circumstances.
Our accomplishments in 2020:
- We were granted monies from Canadian Heritage, and City of Vancouver
- We kept our expenditures within budget
- We developed a marketing and communications strategy and a cohesive and updated branding for VAHMS and explorASIAN Festival.
- We reached out to more cities in Metro Vancouver and renovated alliances with our long-time partners
- We produced the Vancouver Satellite working groups during the 2nd National Asian Heritage Symposium in Montreal, and we are now connected with other Asian Heritage Month organizations in Canada
- The Digital Strategy, Education, and Critical Issues for Asian Canadians virtual Working Groups now allow us to work and connect directly with Montreal, Manitoba, Toronto, Edmonton, and New Brunswick.
- The lock down of mayor Cities in Metro Vancouver forced us to cancel our festival and fundraising events. Despite the circumstances, our quick response to the challenges, allowed us to reinvent explorASIAN festival by producing it 100% virtually and promoting 39 of the original 50 events scheduled in May
- VAHMS Director, Jasper Sloan Yip, led the virtual components of the 2020 Festival
- We continued the virtual Interconnected touring exhibitions on the website
- Director Shahid Abrar ul-Hassan led four bi-monthly VAHMS connections events.
- VPL prepared the Asian Heritage reading list that can be found on our website
Our Challenges in 2020
- Our financial growth took a hard hit due to the cancellation of our Fundraising Gala event, and Silent Auction.
- Many our stakeholders and sponsors had to suspend their community support programs to put more resources into community health and services.
- The lack of enough grant adjudications has put our financial stability at risk. I recognize we have a challenging situation on hand as VAHMS needs to raise enough funds for 2022.
Some of the initiatives put on hold in 2020, have been restarted:
- Collaboration with non-Asian and Indigenous communities and organizations to expand our educational programming.
- Seek more fundraising, and secure enough donations for the Silent Auction.
- Attract volunteers and retain those who are already supporting our initiatives
The Strategic Direction 2021–2023 will build on the successes delivered under the previous plan and will continue to guide VAHMS mission of fostering, promoting, and celebrating Asian- Canadian arts and culture.
To consolidate our efforts in 2021 we will
- Review and update our strategic Plan
- Produce a 5-year business plan to direct our efforts to attain our main objectives of:
- Educating the wider community about the importance of knowing more about Asian Heritage.
- Creating opportunities for Asian-Canadians to network, collaborate and expand their outreach
- Facilitating and promoting explorASIAN festival and partner events
- Providing a safe platform to address critical issues facing Asian-Canadians and discussing solutions that foster inclusion, equity, and diversity
- Securing collaborations with our cultural partners to develop a shared language of unity to discuss matters of reconciliation, equity, anti-racism, cultural competence, accessibility, and shared values.
To attain these objectives, we are determined to continue producing virtual and live streamed events to generate more cultural awareness of the Pan Asian-Canadian communities and their heritage. The 25th Anniversary of explorASIAN programming will be possible thanks to VAHMS collaboration with cultural institutions and community organizations that are coming together to enhance the celebration of Asian Heritage Month.
- Our Virtual Recognition Awards main fundraising event 2021 will include an online Silent Auction
- We have secured collaborations with our partners to produce meaningful events.
- the Interconnected, project will add a monthly virtual artist spotlight to network and build new relationships with Galleries Curators, and VAHMS.
- VAHMS Connections educational program will continue delivering its bi-monthly events.
- Critical and Digital Strategy working groups meetings will be mainly hosted by VAHMS.
- The Board of Directors has considered the importance to acquire a Charitable status for the organization to better support VAHMS fundraising efforts. The process started last year and will continue in 2021.
- The 2021 Resource Development Committee will increase Grant applications, Donation Campaigns & Sponsorships.
- The Marketing and Communications Committee will work towards increasing social media posts, blogs, and virtual events.
- Increasing awareness amongst local university students in Asian Area Studies, International Relations, and Local organizations.
- Providing board, members, staff, and volunteers with a sense of fulfillment by involving them in participating events, public campaigns, and learning opportunities.
2021 also marks my last term as President and Director of VAHMS. Since I started as a member in 2015, VAHMS has provided me the pleasure to work with many talented people and the opportunity to give back to society. VAHMS has always been an inclusive, respectful, and vibrant organization that has opened opportunities for all of us to thrive. I have been very proud of being part of VAHMS and all that we do for artists and organizations to come together and celebrate Asian Heritage Month.
It will not be easy to move on, but all good things come to an end, and when I finish my term, I will keep all the experiences treasured in my heart.
I will finish with a Thomas Emerson quote that exemplifies our efforts.
“Learn from the past, live in the Present, and prepare for the future”
Leticia Sanchez, President
Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society
Happy Holidays from VAHMS President Leticia Sánchez
Posted on December 18, 2020: The Holiday Season is a joyous and happy time for all of us, and though this year does not resemble holidays past, we must continue to be kind to others and ourselves. I am immensely grateful for the hope that the vaccine offers to the world, knowing that the end of this challenging time is approaching. This year VAHMS cancelled all live events, including our annual fundraising Gala where we gather with friends and family to celebrate the end of explorASIAN and Asian Heritage Month in Canada. Though we struggled, we also had the opportunity to virtually transform explorASIAN and present it directly to your homes. In many ways, embracing digital platforms erased the distance between us, making it possible, for instance, for VAHMS to participate in the 2nd National Asian Heritage Month Symposium for the first time. We stood in solidarity with antiracism and inclusion campaigns, and connected with new communities beyond Metro-Vancouver.
Now, the VAHMS team is working non-stop to prepare for explorASIAN 2021 when we will celebrate our 25th Anniversary. We want to come back stronger and produce more educational programs that support Asian-Canadian arts, culture and heritage, and we cannot do it without you. I am inviting you to join us. Your help is needed in the form of volunteering, becoming a member, or becoming a VAHMS donor. Together we can make our next Asian Heritage Month celebration a festival to be remembered. In the meantime, however you celebrate this Holiday Season, please stay safe, keep well, and may each of you have a joyous New Year.
Leticia Sanchez, President
The End of Asian Heritage Month 2020
Posted on June 4, 2020: The month of May marks Asian Heritage Month in Canada, and as it comes to an end, I reflect on how different explorASIAN Festival celebration was this year with most of its signature events, tours, film screenings, and gatherings being cancelled or postponed. In past years, the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society, its partners and audience, shared stories, learned about the many different Pan-Asian Cultures, and cultivated relationships through its extensive live festival programming. These past months, the global health crisis showed us that we cannot take things for granted or predict when or how to gather, but that we can change the way we behave, communicate, and work.
explorASIAN Festival is an opportunity to provide Pan-Asian and Asian-Canadian artists a platform to be seen and heard. The question we had this year was, how to showcase the many Pan-Asian artists without our original plans? We decided to transition the festival from live to virtual as our best move to keep our promises and help our artists. Virtual explorASIAN held the key to our presence and active participation in celebrating Asian Heritage Month. Internet, social media, and live streaming brought forward more of new audiences as well as artists who could perform and connect. Our Opening Ceremony, Interconnected exhibitions project, film screenings, webinars, talks, interviews, and many partners’ events became more relevant and brought us closer together than any other years. Now, I can say that, regardless the circumstances, we found ways to connect with each other and celebrate.
As of today, we may not know when social distancing restrictions will be completely eased in our cities, but we, at VAHMS, will remain committed to continuing celebrating Asian Heritage Month, as well as cultivating, and promoting openness, diversity, inclusion, and community all year through.
Thanks to the hard work and generosity of our Partners, Sponsors, Advisors, Festival Coordinator, Board Members, Volunteers, and your continuous support, we made Virtual 2020 explorASIAN Festival a reality. Next Year, we will come back together as a stronger diverse community to celebrate VAHMS 25
Anniversary, and another successful Asian Heritage Month.
On Behalf of the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society, I would like to thank you, now more than ever, for helping us give voice and support to the diverse Pan-Asian Communities.
VAHMS’ Open Letter
Posted on June 11, 2020: I am writing on behalf of the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society to express solidarity with communities of colour in BC and around the world who have long suffered under systemic injustice within our societies, as well as those individuals who have been victimized during the COVID 19 pandemic.
A key role of the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society has been to advocate for equality and inclusion while providing a platform for Asian communities to be seen and heard. Our efforts are constantly led by our desire to promote culture, diversity, and education, and we remain committed to fair and equitable treatment and representation for all peoples in our communities. Right now we are all part of a moment in history that has the potential to reshape our culture and communities for the better, and it can be challenging for each of us to know how to be an ally of this positive change. For VAHMS, it is a moment for listening, learning, supporting, and amplifying voices from communities of colour, and we would like to invite you to learn with us. Here is a list and organizations that are providing important leadership and resources, that need your support.
Leticia Sanchez, President
Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
Anti-racism resources via Alyssa Klein
Posted January 2019: I am honoured to serve as the President of the Board of Vancouver Heritage Month Society (VAHMS) for 2019. This year marks the 23 rd year of VAHMS being a leading influence in the recognition of the Asian Canadian participation as an integral part of Canadian society through its festival and annual educational and cultural events. It is important to appreciate our many accomplishments these past years and the planning and implementation that it took to achieve them.
I am constantly inspired by all around me who believe in hard work as a driving force to succeed. I can’t think of better examples than the amazing members of our Board, our volunteers, and the organizations that support our efforts to collaborate across and beyond Asian Canadian communities. I’m grateful for the dedicated service of our outgoing President, Ken McAteer, Vice President, Beverly Nann, the board of Directors, Ariadne Sawyer and Toni Zhang McAfee who have dedicated time and effort to make VAHMS this great organization that serves our multicultural communities. At the same time, I’m excited to welcome Martin Prijanta our 2019 VAHMS coordinator, and our new board members and volunteers. With this collective commitment, we will be working towards our common vision of recognizing Asian Canadian participation as an integral part of Canadian society and celebrating the hybridization of all arts and culture in Canada.
In my role as President, this is a very exciting time, as we build new and existing partnerships and raise funding for our explorASIAN 2019 festival. We are reaching out to a wider audience to become a hub for information and to create opportunities for the public to learn about Asian Canadian communities in Canada. I believe all great organizations have a few common attributes including strong leadership, and shared vision; in my 5 years as a board of directors at VAHMS, I have witnessed these same attributes in our team. I thank our prior leaders for the solid leadership provided, as their influence contributed to our past achievements and makes future successes more attainable.
Vancouver Asian Heritage Month society stands ready to serve as a resource and a platform to address critical issues such as identity and social integration for Asian Canadians. I am excited about what we will accomplish this year as we strive to deliver another successful explorASIAN festival.