Ila and Asit Sarkar have made their home in Saskatoon since 1970. Asit came as a faculty member at the (then) College of Commerce at the University of Saskatchewan. Ila, a social work professional, took a few years off while raising their daughter Tania. Their connection with the people of Saskatoon beyond their professional colleagues was through the Canadian Institute of International Affairs and United Nations Association of Canada. This initial connection with the community grew through Asit’s membership in the Rotary Club and Ila’s initiative in founding the Immigrant Women of Saskatchewan (now International Women of Saskatoon). At the same time, Ila did her Master of Social Work at the University of Regina and joined their faculty as a sessional lecturer. By this time Asit and Ila retired from active professional lives, the list of their involvement in various community organizations grew considerably. Thanks to their extensive work in the community, the Sarkars recognize that newcomers and their families require support and opportunities to engage the broader community in order to foster a sense of community to call Saskatoon home. Both have been and continue to remain involved in a variety of community-based organizations that address the needs of newcomers to Saskatoon including Saskatoon Open Door Society, International Women of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Intercultural Association, Saskatoon Refugee Coalition, Rotary Club of Sakatoon-Nutana Club, India Canada Cultural Association, Bangladeshi Community Association of Saskatchewan, Canada-Ukraine Centre.
In establishing the fund at Saskatoon Community Foundation to support initiatives in community inclusiveness, Ila and Asit’s primary motivation is to draw attention to the continuing need for initiatives at the community level to involve the newcomers from around the world in sustaining Saskatoon’s openness and developing new ways of building an inclusive community. They recognize that newcomers to Saskatoon bring with them not only their cultural and linguistic traits but also their experiences and perspectives of what is needed to make Saskatoon a truly global city – a city that not only provides a home to newcomers but also draws on their experiences and strengths and provides opportunities for sharing them with individuals and organizations in Saskatoon to enhance the overall quality of life. The Sarkars believe that these initiatives can come through the activities of organizations in education, culture and arts, community service, business and industry and may find expression through activities that involve newcomers in planning and implementation.