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.”


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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Steven Manchur, who lives near the proposed site of supportive housing in Central Saanich on Prosser Road, said the province has misinformed the public about the site. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Central Saanich residents protest supportive housing project

BC Housing rejects claim that project will lead to more crime

Club Phoenix Fitness in Langford is the first Island business to be ordered closed by the provincial workplace closure order put into effect April 11. It will be closed until at least April 29. (Google Streetview/Screenshot)
Langford gym first Island business to be closed by public health order

Workplace closure order can now close businesses with three or more COVID-19 cases

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. The University of Victoria says Williams has resigned effective immediately. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

Lawsuit filed last summer accused Barney Williams of verbal abuse

A sewage pipe is pulled along Niagara Street in James Bay in 2018 as part of the Capital Regional District’s wastewater treatment plant project. Over the next 10 years, the city will complete 78 new underground infrastructure projects, upgrading sewage, stormwater and water main pipes. (Black Press Media file photo)
Construction begins on Victoria’s 10-year pipe replacement project

78 underground infrastructure projects will cost $53.8 million

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

Police executed a search warrant at the Devils Army Clubhouse on Petersen road in Campbell River on August 10, 2017.
Murder trial into 2016 Campbell River killing underway in Victoria

Ricky Alexander is charged with the first-degree murder of John Dillon Brown

..
Abbotsford nurse at ‘breaking point’ pleads with public to take COVID-19 seriously

Instagram post urges general population to stay home, wear a mask and get vaccinated

Alex Mah of Chemainus spends a sunny day at Kin Beach reading to daughter Beatrice Mah. 3. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Vancouver Island’s mini-summer poised to fade

Cooler and damper this weekend, summer-like conditions not likely to return until late June

Nanaimo Fire Rescue investigator Mark Jonah probes the scene of a blaze that destroyed two apartments on Sunday, April 18. The cause of the blaze has not been determined. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Arson suspect arrested after apartment fire in Nanaimo

35-year-old man arrested for allegedly starting fire lived in the complex

A wildfire has started near Gold River, and B.C. Wildfire Service crews are on scene. Photo courtesy Coastal Fire Centre
Small wildfire burning in difficult terrain near Gold River

Coastal Fire Centre investigating, but confirms blaze is human-caused

FILE – Health-care workers wave to people clapping and yelling thank you to the frontline workers during the 7 p.m.-tribute outside the Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. nurses issue plea for all to follow health orders as hospitalizations spike

Nurses worried about strain COVID-19 is having on hospital capacity, care

Most Read