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Hundreds attend two community-focused events in Vancouver’s Chinatown

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Hundreds of people have lined the streets in Vancouver’s Chinatown for two community events focused on invigorating the community.

Over on Keefer Street, a community coalition of advocates and non-profits, is holding a “Rebirth through the Flames” block party. It’s being held to raise awareness about food security and affordable housing on the one-year anniversary of the Gain Wah restaurant fire in Chinatown.

The fire closed the restaurant and displaced 39 residents living in the Keefer Rooms SRO above the establishment.

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“The event is open to everyone … residents of Chinatown, the Downtown Eastside, and the general public. (Everyone) is encouraged to come share a free meal, connect with the community and share your ideas for a new Gain Wah,” organizers said in a release.

In a community survey, the coalition said 100 per cent of those surveyed want to see Gain Wah reopen.

“We welcome everyone to this community celebration of food security in Chinatown in particular to restaurants like Gain Wah,” said Stephanie Leo, a member of the Gain Wah Project Steering Committee.

“This is a real opportunity to mark a new beginning for Gain Wah’s continued legacy of serving affordable food to all in Vancouver’s Chinatown.”

The steering committee said it exists to provide leadership to ensure a community-based planning and implementation process. It includes community members with a shared interest in, and commitment to, seeing Gain Wah reopen.

“An amazing coalition of community members and organizations are working to re-establish a new Gain Wah restaurant as a social enterprise, and to advocate for the return of the previous tenants of Keefer Rooms”, says Julia Wong of the DTES SRO Collaborative and member of the coalition.

“We’re hoping to raise awareness and garner community support for food security and affordable housing in Chinatown.”

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Over on Columbia Street, a two-day event kicked off on Saturday. The “Light up Chinatown!” festival will feature live music, cultural performances and food collaborations.

It will run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. The aim is to bring a boost to local businesses while having a fun, family-oriented festival.

“Vancouver’s Chinatown is brimming with rich history, unique culture and home to many small businesses. Light Up Chinatown! is a celebration of the neighbourhood’s spirit and the testament to the community’s resilience,” said Carol Lee, Chair of the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation.

Local merchants will be offering discounts across the neighbourhood. Visitors can also collect stamps from merchants for a chance to win prizes, including concert tickets.

Vancouver’s Chinatown is one of Canada’s oldest neighbourhoods and the third-largest Chinatown in North America, organizers said.