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The “Sewa” Leadership of Buncy Pagely

During the pandemic, seniors have been especially impacted. Local leader Buncy Pagely noticed that neighbours in her retirement community, Hawthorne Village, were struggling with several challenges. When an elderly neighbour became ill and was taken to hospital, Pagely decided to act. She helped the neighbour’s wife in visiting him in hospital and began brainstorming what other support her community needed. Ultimately, Pagely found a way to assist her neighbors. Pagely recently sat down with Leadership Victoria to tell us how she did it.

Prior to the pandemic, Pagely was on the British Columbia Seniors Advocate Board. Recalling the various resources that were available, Pagely began talking to her contacts in healthcare. Pagely hoped to find out how she could get supplies and information to her neighbours during the pandemic. Next, Pagely assembled a team to help gather the information and resources. They were looking for health and food resources, as well as home care and housekeeping services.

“The volunteers here, the neighbors, and the church - they all helped. Everybody helped and it was wonderful,”

says Pagely. This team also assembled kits with the assistance of the SHOAL Centre for Seniors in Sidney.

Pagely’s work during the pandemic incorporated knowledge and skills she had learned from an earlier project, when she advocated for cultural sensitivity for seniors in healthcare in British Columbia. While Pagely was on the Advocate Board, she says she, “realized that the seniors need more when they are in the hospitals. You have to be culturally sensitive”. She explains that seniors from different ethnic backgrounds sometimes “don’t know the language. They don’t eat the same food. Their religions are different. They are lonely because they don’t have anybody to speak to.” While working in the hospitals, Pagely was instrumental in spreading awareness of this need for cultural sensitivity. Eventually, the government even agreed to work with colleges to teach healthcare workers about this concept.

Pagely’s beliefs about helping the community emerged from her childhood. Pagely’s family, who had immigrated from India, was involved with developing a local Sikh temple in Victoria. The temple took a lot of time for the family because her grandfather, father and mom were all involved. Pagely recalls with a smile: “mothers became sisters with everybody, and the children became brothers and sisters with everybody”. Eventually, the family became involved with other temples throughout BC. For young Pagely, travelling to Vancouver, New Westminster, Abbotsford and Nanaimo meant packed picnic lunches or dinners to take on the ferry.

“It was so much fun,”

she says. Being involved in this way taught Pagely the values of identity, sharing culture, and connections between people.

This desire to create associations strengthened in Pagely’s adulthood. She began a career working in a bank, but, gradually, her community-oriented work took up more and more of her time. Eventually, she became the Coordinator of the Multicultural Women’s Group, which began as “a little group of women,” says Pagely. “I knew a lot of them and then started contacting ethnic groups and I think I had about one hundred and twenty-five women within a year and my personal interest with them was to try to bring out their skills and share those skills.”

Pagely also became involved with the indigenous communities. “After doing the multicultural programs throughout British Columbia and doing things nationally with immigrant women and boards,” Pagely noticed “we didn’t have the indigenous people on our boards and … there [were] very few women.” Pagely realized that “multiculturalism was one way. But, First Nations was another way, but [I] wanted to bring everybody together to feel comfortable in what they were doing …. Nobody wanted to join because they were in their own ethnic groups but bringing them together in a multicultural setting was a first back then.” However, things reached a tipping point. People started getting onto committees and then, according to Pagely, “FolkFest took over.” This heralded a shift in Victoria towards embracing multiculturalism. People contributed their skills – songs, dances, food – and FolkFest became, says Pagely, a “great thing that happened to bring everybody together once a year.”

In addition to unifying groups, outstanding leaders like Pagely realize “as you go along, you just have to see what the needs are in the community and [ask yourself] how can we then better that?” For Pagely, improving communities is a passion. This is part of her advice for aspiring leaders. Pagely recommends harnessing passion to take a first step, meet people, and be places where something needs to be done. She suggests that this can be achieved by being open-minded and humble.

“If you have a passion, you’re going to make that vision, that dream come true,” says Pagely. “Leadership comes from enjoying what you’re doing.”

You can learn more about the places in Pagely’s story:

Hawthorne Village:

Shoal Center in Sydney:

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