I was born in Amritsar, Punjab, India. In 2006, I immigrated to Toronto, and settled in Calgary in 2007. The move was not a smooth one. My family struggled to settle, as many new immigrants do. My education and work experience didn’t transfer over in Canada and I found myself having to start again. However, in the same year, I began working with the Calgary Parking Authority.
I visit India often and, on one such visit, in 2010, my family and I were dining in Chandni Chowk, a popular market in Delhi. One of my dishes had too much salt so I threw it away. To my surprise, two young girls who were begging on the street picked up my dish but I immediately bought them a new one. Being a father, I was deeply moved by their joy and gratitude. I had never so directly experienced the suffering of such innocent children.
It was a moment of reflection for me. I went home and spoke to my father at length. I had a desire to do something to make a difference. From a very young age I had watched my father serve those less fortunate than him. He often held langar’s (in Sikhism they are known as a community kitchen serving food) in the local slums. He had instilled in me the importance of charity work and had always been my source of inspiration.
In 2010, with the help of my father, the Amrit Sagar Educational and Charitable Society was inaugurated in cooperation with Little Champ Public School in Indrapuram, Uttar Pradesh, India. The two organizations provide a platform to educate underprivileged children. Our vision is to create a better society through self-sufficiency. The main purpose of the foundation is to create awareness of the eight million poor, uneducated, and ill children living in misery and fighting for survival. Through volunteer help we now have branches in other states like Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra. Our foundation pays a fee for thirty impoverished children (mostly girls) from different backgrounds and religions. We provide for their basic health needs, organize health camps, meditation camps, and educate them on sanitation. Our foundation also distributes blankets in winter and helps the families. All the money to support these programs is self-generated and donated by generous individuals.
In 2013, I met Mr. Nandan who has become a dear a friend. He shared my passion to help others, especially seniors. Together, we approached the late Hon. MLA Manmeet Bhuller who encouraged us to start our foundation in Calgary. With God and our parents’ blessing, we registered our foundation. We have been tirelessly addressing issues that affect all members of our South Asian communities, especially children and seniors. In our community, the generation gap seems to be increasing daily. The value of wisdom and the teaching given by our elderly is decreasing and there is a growing disconnect between the elder and younger generation. Our elders’ past has shaped our present and it is our responsibility to stay connected with our seniors to improve their present. The disconnection affects familial relationships and the mental health of the elderly. Some of our programs include ‘connecting with seniors’ and our foundation holds regular events for seniors in the community such as Seniors Sports Days and Talent shows
My life is dedicated to this foundation, which would not exist without the support of my family, friends, and community. Canada has taught me the dignity of labour. I am grateful to Canada for the opportunities it has provided, my parents for their boundless encouragement, and, above all, God. By working here, not only have I been able to support the foundation in India, but it has given me the means to pay back the country that has given me so much.
Sadly, my father passed away in February of this year. This loss has made me more determined and motivated to continue working for the community on something we both started together.