Written by: Chelsea Tan
When my family and I first moved to Canada, I had no idea how much the weather could have an impact on our lifestyle. I remember taking a few extremely cold showers on our first week because I was not aware I could mix hot and cold water.
At times, knowledge that is basic to a commoner might not be straightforward to somebody who is new to the culture. Poor home utility management can result in high energy bills, damp or drafty homes and even mold, mildew or gas leaks.
Areef Abraham and daughter Yasmin Abraham sought to bridge this gap by founding the EmPower Me initiative back in 2012. EmPower Me is an award-winning energy conservation program which started in Vancouver, BC.
Empower Me aims to remove cultural and language barriers to help communities save money, energy, and increase the safety of their homes.
Managing Director Yasmin Abraham explains why EmpowerMe is a one-of-a-kind resource.
“For us, it’s about creating equity so that all Canadians can take advantage of the systems and programs that are available to them,” Abraham says. “Many government websites are only in English. Many of the forms that you have to fill out for these programs are only in English. If you’re not comfortable writing and speaking in English, you’re not gonna be able to take advantage of the money, the programs and the education that’s available out there.”
Empower Me has long-standing success collaborating with the government and energy sectors in Vancouver, and now in Alberta, to improve the lives of new Canadians. The City of Calgary, Energy Efficiency Alberta and Enmax are all critical players in making this initiative possible in the Calgary region.
Monica Curtis, CEO of Energy Efficiency Alberta, placed emphasis on education.
“It’s crucial to provide education on energy use,” she says. “People often say they don’t know how to start. They believe it takes too much time, that it’s too expensive. We seek to help them understand that being efficient can be easy and it can be more affordable.”
For Pat MacDonald, executive vice president of Enmax, the focus was connection.
“Creating the knowledge bridge that will empower multilingual communities to be more energy efficient,” MacDonald says. “ We are committed to working closely with our partner organizations to learn about the challenges in saving energy.”
EmPower Me has helped more than 2,000 households reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by more than 13,000 tonnes since it started operations. Immigrants who join the free program are called “Champions” and they are guided by mentors that speak their native language and understand their culture. Mentors’ service is tailored to each household. They assess household energy bills and work with the family to decrease their monthly costs by offering energy-saving alternatives.
Champions also receive a free energy-saving kit, which may include faucet aerators, low-flow showerheads and LED lights, for example.
Some of the languages that the program offers includes, but is not limited to: Tagalog, Chinese, Farsi and Korean.