By Dane Gibson
The microphone is live and Vancouver Island University international student Wei (Edwin) Song from Beijing confidently leans in to voice a Crime Stoppers message in his native Mandarin.
He is one of four students who came together to assist Nanaimo RCMP Const. Gary O’Brien, Crime Stoppers coordinator, with a pilot project designed to help the Nanaimo program reach more people.
“We know there are people out there who may see things happen and want to report it but because of language barriers or the fact that things may be done differently in their country of origin they don’t feel comfortable sharing with the police, even though it might help us solve a crime,” said O’Brien.
There are almost 2,000 international students at VIU from more than 80 countries. With the help of VIU’s Faculty of International Education, four students who represent some of the larger language groups on campus agreed to help record public service announcements.
Norma MacSween, associate dean of the Faculty of International Education and the director of VIU’s English Language Centre, said she recognized the program’s positive impact right away.
“Quite often language barriers can make a person feel marginalized. This is a way to help international students and communities understand more about the laws and rules of Canada,” said MacSween.
The Radio Malaspina Society that operates VIU’s campus radio station, CHLY 101.7, offered to broadcast the Crime Stoppers announcements. CHLY radio programmer Matt Carter assists the students to ensure they are speaking into the mike properly, projecting their voices and that recording levels are correct. They are now on the second week of airing the recorded Crime Stoppers messages daily.
As Song finishes voicing the crime of the week he is joined in the VIU Library recording studio by Arabic speaker Ziyad Aleid, who is a fourth year VIU student from Saudi Arabia. Students Mayuko Kishida from Japan and Spanish speaker Sara Mann from Colombia arrive soon after. Song says he is honoured to participate.
“If other Mandarin-speaking students or community members see something happen, an emergency or something suspicious – it’s hard for them to know if they should call 911 or not. Now, if they hear these messages, they will know there is another way of sharing information that isn’t 911,” said Song.
Dane Gibson is a writer with VIU’s communications department.