Collingwood SuperAger Cora Maming
by Rob Howatson

Nothing prepared Cora Maming for the sense of isolation she felt when she immigrated from the Philippines to join her family in Vancouver in 2008. As a retired senior, Maming did not have a job to help her improve her English and meet new people. She sat alone each day in her Collingwood apartment and watched T.V. while her family went to work. The 68-year-old mother felt cut-off from society. Many elders who are new to the country feel the same way. Statistics Canada says only 12 per cent of recent immigrant seniors have a very strong sense of belonging to their local community.

Fortunately, for Maming, there are programs in her area that help new arrivals forge connections. Maming’s daughter, Karen Caguioa, who works at Collingwood Neighbourhood House (CNH), encouraged her mom to take an ESL course at the centre. “I was shy at first,” says Maming. “I didn’t think my English was good and I was reluctant to speak it outside of our home. But when I went to class and saw that many students were struggling more than I was, I started helping them. Soon I was making friends.”

Caguioa told her mom about Vancouver Foundation’s Neighbourhood Small Grants – a program that provides $50 to $500 to local residents who organize community-building events. Maming applied and received a small amount of money to host a block party for her neighbours in 2010. “I was so excited on the day of the party that I forgot to eat and the ambulance had to come when I felt faint,” says the feisty senior. “It wasn’t quite how we planned things, but it turned out to be a great ice breaker and everyone knows me now.”
The following year, Maming used a Neighbourhood Small Grant (NSG) to host an earthquake preparedness workshop for her neighbours. “This was just after the big Japanese quake in 2011, so everyone wanted to learn what to do to be safe,” explains Maming. “The event went well and, not long after, Vancouver felt a small tremor, reminding us all to plan ahead.”
Last year, the active senior, who also now volunteers regularly at CNH, held a NSG-supported Halloween party at the centre, complete with pumpkin carving for seniors, many of whom are immigrants that have never made a jack o’lantern before.
“I love these events because they help me make many friends and give me confidence to be a part of my neighbourhood.”
As for this year’s Neighbourhood Small Grant Project, Maming has not decided yet what she will do. She recently had knee surgery, which has kept her away from her beloved seniors’ Zumba classes at CNH, but do not be surprised if you see this social dynamo leading some kind of event in Collingwood soon.