November 20, 2017

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Serving downtown

BIZ ambassadors lend helping hand

When Simrat Jhally decided to pursue a career in law enforcement, he sought out a volunteer position where he could learn skills he’d need as a police officer.

The 22-year-old volunteers every week as a safety ambassador with the Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone (BIZ).

“I really think if I want to be in the Winnipeg Police Service, I have to know about downtown, especially what’s going on and how to make it safer,” Jhally says. “By volunteering with the Downtown BIZ, I can gain some experience and it can count as an asset.”

Born and raised in India, Jhally moved to Winnipeg in 2014 to study.

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When Simrat Jhally decided to pursue a career in law enforcement, he sought out a volunteer position where he could learn skills he’d need as a police officer.

The 22-year-old volunteers every week as a safety ambassador with the Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone (BIZ).

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Simrat Jhally volunteers with the Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone.</p>

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Simrat Jhally volunteers with the Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone.

"I really think if I want to be in the Winnipeg Police Service, I have to know about downtown, especially what’s going on and how to make it safer," Jhally says. "By volunteering with the Downtown BIZ, I can gain some experience and it can count as an asset."

Born and raised in India, Jhally moved to Winnipeg in 2014 to study.

He started volunteering at the BIZ in 2015, shortly after graduating from the applied accounting program at Red River College.

Safety ambassadors provide ­directions and safe walks to downtown users. They also assist panhandlers and intoxicated people.

Jhally appreciates the co-ordination between the Downtown BIZ and the police service.

"The biggest thing I enjoy (about volunteering) here is everybody knows exactly what they’re doing," he says. "We act as the ears and eyes for the police."

Safety ambassadors aren’t the only volunteers at the BIZ. It also has a team of host ambassadors who help promote events, programs and services and gives information to downtown users.

The best part about volunteering as a host ambassador is getting to meet different people, Miaofen Zhou says.

Zhou began volunteering with the Downtown BIZ in July, after graduating from Red River College’s international business program.

"I wanted to do something to help promote local businesses," says the 27-year-old, who grew up in Kaiping, a city in southern China. "I try my best to help them and, at the same time, I am improving myself because they are teaching me things I never expected I could learn from them."

Safety and host ambassadors such as Jhally and Zhou provide important services, says Victoria de Haan-Traa, BIZ volunteer co-ordinator.

"They really enhance our capacity to meet the goals that we have," says de Haan-Traa, adding that the BIZ is always on the lookout for more volunteers. "We look for people who are enthusiastic and people-oriented."

People who care about Winnipeg’s downtown and making it a safe and enjoyable place to be are encouraged to apply to volunteer as either a safety ambassador or host ambassador by visiting downtownwinnipegbiz.com/volunteer.

Zhou enjoys being involved at the BIZ, working to improve a city that is 9,000 kilometres away from where she grew up.

"I think Winnipeg is like a peaceful city," she says. "People are friendly and nice here. If you have any trouble, people will try their best to help you."

Jhally has similar feelings.

Even though he misses his family in India, he has found a good group of friends in Manitoba and is looking forward to pursuing a career in law enforcement here.

"I love Winnipeg," he says. "This is home now."

If you know a special volunteer, please contact aaron.epp@gmail.com.

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History

Updated on Monday, November 13, 2017 at 7:23 AM CST: Photos fixed.

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