Pam Buisa was one of the organizers for a Black Lives Matter rally last year in Victoria. The Olympic athlete is now using her voice to address the issue of homelessness. (Black Press Media file photo)

Pam Buisa was one of the organizers for a Black Lives Matter rally last year in Victoria. The Olympic athlete is now using her voice to address the issue of homelessness. (Black Press Media file photo)

Olympic rugby player helping bring essential items to Victoria’s unhoused

Pam Buisa wants to break down the stigma of homelessness and support the city’s vulnerable people

Summer 2020 was set to be the first time Pamphinette Buisa’s cleats would dig into the turf on the Olympic stage. However, the Canadian rugby sevens player started working in a hotel after COVID-19 postponed the Tokyo Games.

The sudden change shook the Victoria athlete’s reality, but when the hotel where she was working became a temporary housing space, she met people whose world had been impacted far more than her own.

It was hearing from those people, who share the city she now calls home, about how they couldn’t afford rent or lost their jobs due to the pandemic that turned Buisa’s focus to homelessness.

“I think that was the biggest eye-opener for me and that’s why a lot of my continued community organizing has centred around community care,” Buisa said.

She’s one of three members of the sevens team involved in a small group — made up of Caroline Crossley, Charity Williams, Caleb Asfaw, Vanessa Simon, Ciel Arbour Boehme and Percy Percival-Patersonthat’s — that’s raising funds to get necessary items — like batteries, warm clothes, food and water — to the city’s unhoused.

The Stand with Meegan GoFundMe is almost two-thirds of the way to its $15,000 goal and aims to provide Beacon Hill’s vulnerable population with resources they may not be receiving from government programs.

READ: Victoria, province won’t meet March 31 goal of sheltering encampment residents

Though the need was already there, Buisa said the pandemic accelerated and amplified impacts on low-income and unhoused people. She’s worried about what will happen to people when the city reinstates a bylaw that prohibits 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. public camping.

“COVID-19 is still here, so if people are not in housing and they’re not in homes, what’s going to happen?” she said. “Having to displace yourself with not knowing a sort of solution is something that is terrifying to a lot of people.”

Buisa hears these concerns when she and her friends go to Beacon Hill to talk with people there. For her, it comes down to just showing up, whether that’s helping people get essentials or just being there as a friend.

“When we’re talking about decisions in certain spaces, we exclude those who we’re creating that care for,” she said. “Whenever we’re making decisions about how we’re going to treat the homeless, how many times are we consulting the homeless.”

Pam Buisa, one of the organizers of last summer’s Black Lives Matter event, lifts her first in solidarity with the movement.

Breaking down the stigma of homelessness takes looking past the surface, Buisa said.

“Often times we see someone who’s unhoused or talk to someone who’s unhoused and just make assumptions of why they’re there,” she said. “We’re not that different, but the different opportunities that we’ve been extended really affect how you move and continue to operate in today’s society.”

Buisa said the sevens squad’s preparation is ramping up ahead of the Tokyo Games. While the pandemic isolated the teammates, being together everyday again has Buisa taking stock of what she previously overlooked. It’s made her see how much she values the time between matches, like the highs and lows and of grueling training sessions, being annoyed by a teammate or simply laughing with each other.

“I realized how much I missed it and how important it is to capitalize on every moment. It’s the everyday of seeing each other and the joys of that,” she said, adding the team is ready to go for gold.

“It’s going to be a very different Olympics, but I also know it’s going to be our Olympics.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:jake.romphf@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Victoria

Just Posted

Two men were seen removing red dresses alongside the Island Highway in Oyster Bay. (Submitted photo)
Two men filmed removing red dresses from trees in Oyster Bay

Activists hung the dresses to raise awareness for Vancouver Island Murdered/Missing Women & Girls

Naloxone is used to treat opioid overdoses. (Black Press Media files)
Island Health issues overdose advisory for Greater Victoria

The advisory directs bystanders to an overdose to call 911 and administer naloxone

John Albert Buchanan was found guilty of manslaughter in the 2017 death of Richard Sitar. Pictured here, Buchanan walking to the court in Nanaimo last year. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Six years including time served for Nanaimo man in bludgeoning death

John Albert Buchanan sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo for death of Richard Sitar

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote North Island logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

RCMP on scene yesterday at the altercation at the trailer park. (Submitted photo)
Violent altercation at Port Hardy trailer park sends one to hospital

Police say man confronted another over airsoft shooting, then was attacked with a weapon

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

FILE - This Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, file photo shows the dashboard of the Tesla Model X car, at the company's headquarters in Fremont, Calif. Newer cars that connect to the internet are capable of collecting vast amounts of data about their drivers. Tesla Motors has used data to reveal, sometimes within hours of a crash, how fast the driver was going and whether or not the company’s semi-autonomous Autopilot system was engaged. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
Test of vehicle’s self-drive features mistaken for impaired driving

Campbell River RCMP warn busy roadway no place to check out a vehicle’s new features

A trailer with fire damage is taped off by the Port Alberni Fire Department at the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Fire knocked down at controversial Port Alberni property

City is concerned about zoning, building code and fire code infractions surrounding the trailers

Prince Philip is seen here talking to Alex Rennie about platters of food presented by the culinary deparment at Malaspina College (now Vancouver Island University) in 1983. (Courtesy of Alex Rennie)
Parksville man recalls meeting Prince Philip at what was then Malaspina College

Alex Rennie, a former culinary instructor, got to shake hands with royal visitor

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Most Read