A new name for ongoing good work
204 Neighbourhood Watch rebrands as it celebrates five years of community action
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It is an advocacy group out of Winnipeg, filling gaps and helping residents live better.
Whether it’s helping newcomers navigate life in a new city through cultural understanding or partnering with different agencies to lend a hand in a multitude of capacities, the Filipino-led 204 Neighbourhood Watch has been there.
Now, it has a new name.
On Saturday night, 204NW was rebranded during its five-year celebration at the Maples Collegiate commons. The night started with a land acknowledgement and an opening prayer that was accompanied by picture slide show, capturing snapshots of the group’s advocacy over the past five years. After a feast and fellowship, the name and logo were finally unveiled.
204 Volunteers Caring Manitobans in Action will continue to do advocacy-led work throughout the city.
“We will not be changing anything in the group, except that we will be aligning the name to the long list of things that we do,” said founder Leila Castro.
The grassroots organization takes several approaches to community outreach. The group partners with several agencies throughout the province, including the Winnipeg Police Service, Canadian Red Cross, Canadian Blood Services, and the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba, often bridging the gaps in social services and educating the public on how to navigate these services and systems. This is something that is especially helpful to the newcomer community. Castro said members also spend time advocating to end online child pornography in the Philippines. Which, according to a 2021 study, “has emerged as the centre of child sex abuse materials production in the world.”
“These organizations that are catering to the most vulnerable in the community, they can use our volunteers and the effectiveness of our program in connecting with people so they can carry out their program,” Castro said.
One form of this outreach is hosting public safety forums and community conversations, sometimes in the wake of a tragedy. Providing what member Beth Olesco calls psychological first aid.
The group offered support to a grieving community after the 2019 home invasion murder of 17-year-old Jaime Adao, and earlier this year, after John Lloyd Barrion, 19, was killed while working at a beer vendor. They also helped co-ordinate much of the community-oriented search effort for Eduardo Balaquit, who went missing on June 4, 2018 from his job at Westcon Equipment and Rentals. Though Balaquit’s body has never been found, a jury found Kyle Pietz guilty of manslaughter this past May.
“After something happens, people feel scared, they may feel angry and there are things that come to their mind they cannot process,” Castro said.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the group partnered with the Canadian Red Cross to distribute rapid test kits and KN-95 masks, typically in areas where there is a high concentration of Filipinos and new immigrants.
“Normally immigrants, especially Filipinos, we work double jobs, so we don’t have time to line up… and get them,” Castro explained.
The group’s goal was to remove barriers and make it easy to access kits and masks. They also provided the items to seniors homes and churches in the area, to try and reach as many people as possible.
However, beyond the work it does in the community, members of 204 Volunteers Caring Manitobans in Action have spent years building a family with one another.
Evo Paguio, a founding member, said he initially joined the group because he was curious about the safety in his neighbourhood and wanted to do something to help others. His son, Blake, 15, helped form the 204NW Kiddie Patrol, for young people following in their parents’ footsteps down a path of community outreach and activism.
“These guys are like my second family,” he said. “They’re always there for me if I need them and I’m always there for them if they need me.”
Community activist Darryl Contois has volunteered with the group, joining in the community walks and helping in the search for Balaquit. Contois was invited to say a few words at Saturday’s celebration.
“I search for everyone because everyone is loved by someone,” he said.
Last month, a group of seven patrol members went to Canadian Blood Services to donate, a co-ordinated group effort that they’ve been taking part in for several years.
Castro said the group is working to lead a paradigm shift in the Filipino community through education and advocacy. She admitted shifting cultural beliefs are a challenge when it comes to donating blood, but said the group has been connecting with and encouraging Filipino blood donors since 2018.
Moving forward with a new name and logo, 204 Volunteers Caring Manitobans in Action will continue to serve the community in whatever capacity they can. They encourage anyone who is interested to join them. What started as a Filippino-only group has expanded to welcome and include members from every community.
“Being part of this group not only has a strong impact on my family, but other families as well,” said Olesco. “I believe a group like ours provides peace of mind to the community.”
Columnist, Manager of Reader Bridge project
Shelley is a born and raised Winnipegger. She is a proud member of the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation.