Here’s introducing the four Indo-Canadians who have been honored with the 2021 BC Achievement Community Award in recognition of their service to communities:
1. HARBHAJAN SINGH ATHWAL | New Westminster
Athwal, who grew up in Chitti, a small village in India’s Punjab, arrived in Canada in 1968 with just $7 in his pocket.
After working for 38 years as a saw-mill laborer, he began volunteering for Khalsa Diwan Society Gurdwara Sukh Sagar.
As the president of this non-profit body, Athwal contributes to the spiritual, educational, and social services available to the New Westminster community.
In 2007, he spearheaded the creation of the Guru Nanak Free Kitchen program, providing meals for the homeless community in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Over the past 14 years, volunteers have been preparing and distributing meals for the community people. Athwal has also helped to create many youth-oriented programs, services and workshops, including scholarships for high school and university students.
Over the years, he has extended his home to many new immigrant families, and continues to offer community and friendship where it is needed most.
2. KAL DOSANJH | Surrey
Kal Dosanjh is a veteran police officer with 20 years of law enforcement experience. He served approximately 15 years as a patrol officer, prior to being transferred to the Investigative Division as a detective.
Born and raised in Ladner, British Columbia, he graduated with a degree in Criminology from Simon Fraser University.
During patrol duties, Dosanjh was exposed to the challenging realities faced by the community. This experience led him to create the Kids Play Youth Foundation, a non-profit that gives kids the opportunity to become involved in sports and other recreational activities.
Kids Play steers kids away from a lifestyle of drugs, gangs and violence. The Foundation has also developed after school mentorship programs with the Surrey and Langley school districts. Since its launch in 2015, more than 60,000 kids have accessed Kids Play.
He also received the Bharat Samman Award at the 30th annual NRI Parvasi Divas in UK for his exemplary work as a Global Leader in Social Impact.
3. DR. BALBIR GURM | Surrey
Born in Vangta, Punjab, India, Gurm moved to Vancouver, BC when she was all of six years-old.
A long time advocate for women, she is the founder and chair of the Network to Eliminate Violence in Relationships. For the past decade, she has been working to break down gender and cultural barriers, facilitating collaboration between volunteers and external groups, while striving toward the common goal of preventing relationship violence.
Gurm authored 'Making Sense of Global Pandemic: Relationship Violence & Working Together towards a Violence Free Society' last year.
As a Nursing Professor, Balbir is a role model for students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, inspiring them to become fellow agents for change. For decades, Balbir has used education, research, and community engagement to advocate for violence prevention.
4. NIRMAL PARMAR | Terrace
He volunteered with the Thornhill Fire Department early on and in 1984 Parmar, along with a number of like-minded individuals, started a new multicultural group, which eventually became The Terrace and District Multicultural Association.
In the last 50 years Parmar, who moved to Terrace from India in 1969, has organized, facilitated and delivered innumerable multicultural-focused workshops for community groups and schools in the Terrace area.
In 2000, he teamed up with other community groups to address the issue of institutional racism in the workplace and schools which resulted in the creation of the Skeena Diversity Society.
He has also served as a board member and/or trustee for the Kermode Friendship Society, Terrace Public Library, Northern Saving Credit Union, Terrace Co-operative Association, Terrace and Area Health Council, Scouts Canada and Vanderhoof & Districts Co-operative Association.
He was awarded the Order of Terrace in 2016.
While the award ceremony is recognized in Victoria with BC’s Lieutenant Governor, this year it was moved online due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Each recipient received a certificate and a medallion designed by British Columbia artist Robert Davidson honoring their achievements.
The Community Award celebrates British Columbians who go above and beyond in their dedication and service to others.
It honors individuals who devote their time and energy to making their communities more caring, dynamic, beautiful, healthy and inclusive.