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Calgary Empathy Week about thinking of others

Tara Vahab thinks we need more empathy in the Calgary.  

The Calgary artist, and founder of LOUD Art Society, was involved in a serious car crash a few years ago and suffered from post-concussion syndrome.

While she was recovering, she was helping other people recover at the same time.

“Even though I was going through recovery myself, helping other people helped me help myself, too,” she said.

Part of the ‘Woven News’ art installation created by Tara Vahab. CONTRIBUTED

Vahab said, however, the negativity in the news around her kept getting her down. So, she took that fuel, accepted it and decided to use it in an art installation displayed during Empathy Week in Calgary, from June 1 to 7.

She took city newspapers and made a series of art pieces out of them, including a dress. It’s called, ‘Woven News.’

Vahab was one half of a duo that received a grant from Humainologie – the group behind Calgary’s Empathy Week. She wanted to put together a piece around self-compassion and understanding of the self and others.

“There’s not enough time to actually sit down and contemplate, understand and just even listen and talk to each other,” Vahab said.

“I think we are kind of losing that human interaction, because we are living in a type of society that everybody is just thinking about, ‘What’s in it for me?’ And how is this going to affect me? It’s all about me, me, me. Yes, ego is important. But at the same time, that same ego is going to take over.”

Empathy Week officially proclaimed in Calgary

It’s the third year for Empathy Week in Calgary. For the first time this year, according to Salima Stanley-Bhanji, CEO of Humainologie, the City of Calgary has proclaimed the week. It was the world’s first-ever Empathy Week.

“Empathy is like one of those things, almost kind of like trees and air and food and other things we overlook, and yet, they’re completely necessary in our lives,” she said.

Events have been ongoing since June 1 and go until June 7. Some events are free, others require a donation and some require paid tickets. Stanley-Bhanji just wants Calgarians to think about human connection and compassion as they go about their busy lives.

“It’s really challenging for us to be able to kind of step out of that bubble, sometimes consider another person. And sometimes that can even just mean waiting to hold the door open, or someone cuts you off in traffic, thinking about, ‘oh, you know, maybe they’re having a tough day, or maybe they’re in a rush to get somewhere important,’” she said.  

“So, in some ways, it’s just being able to give someone else the benefit of the doubt. It can be tough to do that.”

Stanley-Bhanji said they’re focus now is on inclusion and looking after Calgary’s vulnerable people – offering compassion for those that may appear as though they need a lift.

She doesn’t like the idea of a city without empathy.

“You sometimes wonder what the world would look like with without empathy and say, ‘Sorry.  I think that would a pretty sort of scary sight.”

For more information on the remaining events for Calgary’s Empathy Week, you can visit the Humanologie page.