#BCMulticulturalismWeek with Kiruthika Rathanaswami: Serving up Cross-Cultural Opportunities

Nov 17, 2023

Every year in British Columbia, the third week in November is proclaimed as Multiculturalism Week. BC Multiculturalism Week is a time to celebrate diverse cultures and learn more about how the unique perspectives and cultures in BC strengthen the amateur sport sector to be a more inclusive environment for everyone. In this article, we share the inspiring journey of Kiruthika Rathanaswami, a first generation Canadian, who has faced barriers of awareness and accessibility to sport, and used that as a driving force to help design sport experiences that meet unique needs.

Kiruthika Rathanaswami is a first-generation Canadian who found her love for sport and physical activity when she was first introduced to it in elementary school. Finding her passion for sport from an early age helped guide her career path.

“I was a very active kid and participated in many school sports.” Outside of school sports, Kiruthika’s parents had enrolled to start formally training in an Indian classical dance form called bharata natyam. Bharata natyam is a classical style of dance that is prevalent in Southern India. “Many South Asian parents enroll their children in dance as a way of teaching them about their own culture and roots,” Kiruthika shares.

Kiruthika had a love of sport and being physically active but was unable to participate in club sports because, at that time, there were no newcomer initiatives geared towards immigrants. “My parents were unaware of the sports system and that there was a whole club system where kids could participate outside of school sports,” Kiruthika Shares. “It’s a lack of awareness and representation. My parents were supportive, but they were not aware that these opportunities existed.”  Because of her own experience, Kiruthika knew that she wanted to make a difference in the sport community and not have others miss out on experiences.

Kiruthika has spent the last three years running the newcomer initiatives at Volleyball BC to help raise awareness and introduce the sport to new Canadians. “It has truly been a satisfying and gratifying experience.” During this time, Volleyball BC has partnered with immigrant, social, and newcomer centres and organizations, delivering seven newcomer programs. Kiruthika shares how “these programs demonstrate first-hand that when different voices come together, we can make a greater impact.”

As the Canadian population continues to increase through immigration, Kiruthika believes the sport sector must also continue to learn from diverse groups and find unique ways of reaching new members in BC. “It has been an opportunity for PSOs like Volleyball BC to learn from cultural groups and how to make sport more accessible and inclusive; we need to learn and understand from one another to be successful and flourish in sport.”

If you’re interested in learning how you can design sport experiences that are inclusive and meet unique needs for new members, take a look at our participant-centred design guide.