Local Love Blog Series – Bow Valley Locals

Welcome back to the Local Love Blog Series!

This week’s feature is a super exciting one that I’ve been looking forward to for such a long time! I’m thrilled to share with you the story behind a local favourite Instagram account, Bow Valley Locals and Natasha Lay from the Bow Valley Immigration Partnership (BVIP). 

Natasha Lay

Natasha works closely with the lead storyteller, Tannia, to bring us closer to our community one story at a time. 

The Bow Valley Locals project team also includes representatives from the Town of Banff, artPlace, Canmore Museum, Bow Valley Immigrant Advisory Group, and a variety of local residents. 

#BowValleyLocals is a campaign for all residents across the Bow Valley, including Kananaskis, Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise and the Western MD of Bighorn. 

The goal of the campaign is to celebrate diversity within our local community by sharing the stories of those in our community no matter how long they have lived in the Bow Valley. In sharing these stories, community members are encouraged to share in their own words how they came to be in the Bow Valley, why they love the community, and tips for new arrivals! 

 A main goal of the #BowValleyLocals campaign is to provide a platform for locals to create connections that will ultimately strengthen the Bow Valley community. 

By sharing helpful, anti-racist content about different groups and cultures within the Bow Valley, the #BowValleyLocals campaign and the BVIP in large hope to present more opportunities to build community. In doing so, the stories they share have fostered increased understanding between Bow Valley residents, strengthened community connections, and reduced discrimination. 

There’s more in common than just a love for the mountains in all of us! 

In sharing nearly 100 stories of Bow Valley residents, what has really hit Natasha and her team is the inspiration they feel in reading and sharing the stories of locals who have come from all over the world, how they have settled into the Bow Valley and made it truly their home, and what keeps them here. While everyone has their unique story, it may come as a surprise to find more common ground than anticipated with most of the locals in our community.

When I asked Natasha where the idea came from, a changing diversity landscape proved part of the inspiration. 

The Bow Valley now serves as a home for people from over 60 countries which #BowValleyLocals wanted to capture and celebrate this incredible diversity. After a 2014 study conducted by the Bow Valley Immigration Partnership found barriers to immigrant integration into the community including issues such as misconceptions and stereotypes, Natasha’s team wanted to find a way to combat these barriers. 

#BowValleyLocals is also inspired and partially a re-launch of a previous campaign, #MeetTheLocals. 

Originally started in 2015, the BVIP partners with Humans of Bow Valley to launch the #MeetTheLocals campaign. This call-out to Bow Valley residents encouraged them to learn more about one another and celebrate local diversity. Created by Azerbaijani-born Canmore local, Javan Mukhtarov had a passion for meeting his neighbours and wanted to share this with others in the community. Javan was ultimately inspired by Brandon Stanton’s 2010 project Humans of New York.

Just like those whose stories they share, the #BowValleyLocals team is from all around the world. 

Natasha hails from southwest Sydney, Australia and Tannia is originally from Mexico. Together with their team, they are committed to sharing resident stories, breaking down barriers for immigrants, challenging existing stereotypes, and creating stronger connections between neighbours and community members in the Bow Valley! 

The Bow Valley Immigration Partnership is doing important work to ensure the Bow Valley is a welcoming and inclusive space for all. 

BVIP research from 2019 showed the ongoing need to build understanding between locals to break down barriers, stereotypes, and misconceptions. The #BowValleyLocals campaign provides a space for locals to share their personal stories in their own words while also serving as a platform for others to learn about the diversity that exists within the community. 

Natasha hopes that #BowValleyLocals helps residents inherently feel that they belong in the Bow Valley, regardless of where they come from, what language they speak, or what cultures and religions they are connected to.

Whether you’re a longtime resident or have just finished your first season in the Bow Valley, take a moment to help newcomers to the Bow Valley feel welcome here. Many people arrive without family or friends which can be an incredibly isolating experience. The simple act of inviting a new friend to a social gathering, sharing a piece of local knowledge or tips and tricks, or making an effort to learn more about them, where they came from, and what they’re missing can make a huge impact! 

If you’re not familiar with the #BowValleyLocals campaign or the Bow Valley Immigration Partnership, be sure to check out their work on Instagram and Facebook. If you’re interested in getting involved with #BowValleyLocals and the BVIP, be sure to get in touch with them and even become a member!

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