Masala Chai Mondays: Conversations with Vancouver’s Changemakers

Shyam Valera, recent SFU graduate, co-founded Dunya Media, a communications agency that uses film and storytelling to connect diverse audiences with stories they can relate to. Follow him on Twitter at @shyamvalera. Below, we get an update from Masala Chai Mondays, a project team funded earlier this year through the SFU Student Social Innovation Fund, a collaboration between RADIUS and Embark.

What a ride! We started off with an idea and with the help of RADIUS and Embark we were able to take it into action and the results were glorious.
Wait, who’s “we”?
We’re a newly formed grassroots group of passionate people interested in social change. Over the past 10 years we’ve been fortunate to start or be part of some amazing projects that have empowered individuals in making change on a variety of social issues. We’ve founded many grassroots movement-based organizations that use novel ways to share stories and engage diverse and intergenerational audiences including:,, BeeVancity, and most recently (digital storytelling) and (action-based network hosting events). Working together we can combine our energies, interests and skills; particularly in the areas of digital storytelling, hosting engaging events, and empowering people to action.
And what was your idea?
Good question. We wanted to begin showcasing powerful stories to inform, inspire and empower action, so we started a webseries called Masala Chai Mondays. Through open, conversational interviews with changemakers in Vancouver over a warm cup of masala chai, we share insights on why they do their work, how they’ve gotten to where they are and what their dreams are for the future.
Why? Why would you ever want to do this?
Two reasons actually. First and biggest reason, we love masala chai so we just got extra when we filmed. Not going to lie, it was delicious. But the other reason is that over the years we’ve noticed that there are some amazing things happening in Vancouver when it comes to social innovation. From figuring out new housing models to finding new funding models for Vancouver specific start-ups, there are amazing people who are trying to help the whole community grow. We want to give them a platform to not only share but to inspire other people to get into social innovation and realize that you can make good money when you have social impact as part of a business or job.
Ok that’s all good but what do you want out of this?
Inspire. Inspire. Inspire. We want to inspire people to do good. That there is a marketplace for that. That you can follow your passion no matter what it is, no matter what job you have, you can have a social impact. By showcasing people’s story from different sectors we think we will be able to inspire the youth to have social innovation on the top of their minds.
Our first interview is with Ashok Puri, an elderly South Asian man who travels to different countries all over the world and sleeps on people’s couches rather than sleeping in hotels. He talks about the motivation behind this and some very exciting experiences he’s had in Columbia.
Tune in for the next blog where I’ll tell you how the rest of the interviews went and some of the key messages our guests had.