October 21, 2020

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'We have to share our voices'

Non-profit U Multicultural gives voice to Manitoba's cultural communities

Since Taya Rtichsheva started U Multicultural last year, it has grown to include more than 15 different communities and organizations under its umbrella. (Jesse Boily / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Since Taya Rtichsheva started U Multicultural last year, it has grown to include more than 15 different communities and organizations under its umbrella. (Jesse Boily / Winnipeg Free Press)

Opinion

When Taya Rtichsheva says her whole life is about journalism and TV production, she means it.

Born and raised in Pavlodar, Kazakhstan, Rtichsheva earned an honour’s degree in journalism while studying at a university in Russia. Prior to emigrating to Winnipeg in 2011, she spent six years as director of documentaries in the press office of the president of Kazakhstan.

During that time, she produced more than 50 documentaries about politics, international summits and forums, and Kazakhstani history and traditions. Along the way, she met world leaders, including former U.S. president Barack Obama.

Today, the 36-year-old channels her expertise in media production into her volunteer work with U Multicultural, a non-profit she created to showcase and give voice to Manitoba’s many local cultural communities.

U Multicultural helps any interested ethnic group to produce original content that is broadcast on local cable TV stations in Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.

"The purpose is to provide the platform to people where they can come and talk about their own issues, share their successes, sing their songs or do educational videos for the children in their community," Rtichsheva says. "It could be in English or in their own language."

Working with a team of volunteers, Rtichsheva provides the studio space through her relationship with ShawTV Winnipeg, as well as the cameras and the crew.

Rtichsheva also shares her expertise, assisting with writing and coaching people on how to host their show.

Since Rtichsheva started U Multicultural last year, it has grown to include more than 15 different communities and organizations under its umbrella, incorporating people from the Brazilian, Chinese, Colombian, Filipino, German, Inuit, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Scottish and Yazidi communities.

Although Rtichsheva is an entrepreneur who makes her living through independent media production — she is the creator and director of Design Matters, a web television series available on Amazon Prime that showcases unusual interior design projects — she does not want to use her skills solely for financial gain.

"I really want to convert (my) experience into something meaningful," she says. "I want to share it with the community, to give them my skills and experience. That includes everyone, whether they’re young or old, a longtime citizen or a newcomer."

U Multicultural is an extension of Rtichsheva’s volunteer work coordinating the Canadian Russian-language television network RTV, which she founded in 2015.

RTV airs on ShawTV in Manitoba and Shaw Multicultural Channel in British Columbia, and covers Russian-speaking communities across the country.

"There are thousands of people who speak Russian in Canada… and they don’t have any local media (in their language)," Rtichsheva says. "I wanted to be able to watch videos… and get the information about my local community (in Russian), and find out what’s going on here in Canada. This is why I created RTV."

Volunteer Manitoba and Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries recognized Rtichsheva’s efforts when they announced in March that she would receive the William Norrie Arts and Culture Volunteer Award as part of the 37th Annual Volunteer Awards.

Rtichsheva is focused, professional and passionate about the community, says Lina Streltsov, who nominated her for the award.

"Taya is the best example of how the immigrant can achieve their goals and inspire lots of people around by helping them to overcome self-doubt (and) professional and language barriers," Streltsov says. "The ideas of unification, friendship and openness that Taya promotes (are) worthy of attention."

Rtichsheva says the award was a pleasant surprise. She’s excited about it.

"Giving the community access to media outlets is important," she says. "We have to share our voices. All of us."

Visit u-channel.ca to learn more.

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

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