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“Volunteering eases the immigrant journey”
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“Volunteering eases the immigrant journey”

Harnoor Gill pic

Being an immigrant means making a sometimes difficult transition, but Harnoor Gill, 17, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Georgetown in Canada, writes that giving back to the community helped to establish a sense of belonging.

My journey begins when I was born in Kowloon, Hong Kong. As a young boy, I would constantly become sick due to the polluted air. The hospital was practically my second home. Eventually, my mother decided it was best to move to another country and my father suggested Canada. Not only would it be a safer place for me to grow up in, but it would also be a great place for my parents to finally settle down as a family.

We landed on January 4th of 2002 and moved into the community of Brampton, Ontario. Like most immigrants, my parents moved into a local community of South Asians like themselves. After completing immigration documents, my parents were granted the permanent immigration status and later became Canadian citizens. My parents were so excited that they hosted a little family gathering in honour of the great news.

The real change was the weather. I still remember how I wore these big pants because of the cold.  Back in Hong Kong, I had never experienced such weather. It would always be dry and hot or wet and humid in Kowloon.

In the less polluted air of our new home, my bronchitis went from hazardous to essentially nothing at all. I didn’t need to go to hospital any more. My parents have referred to this situation as an immigrant miracle.

As I grew up, I realized most of the kids around me were immigrants like myself. It was easy and fun to grow up as a Sikh and with my Punjabi cultural background. I attended the local Gurudwara (Sikh temple) and as a keen student, I also attended Saturday school for Punjabi class. This helped me to learn about my native language.

Just like a majority of Canadian families today, my family had a passion for giving back to the community. In their case it was through volunteering. I remember my first volunteering experience like it was yesterday – as an elementary student I helped to plant and nurture the community garden along with my fellow classmates.

I enjoyed the beautiful sights and scenes nature offered and spent my time either in the local park or our backyard with friends and family. When my middle school years came, my parents moved to a more spacious area. Back home, both my parents lived in the countryside of Northern India and they decided to look for a nice countryside home in Canada.

This was a huge change for me both culturally and in terms of space as there was always a ‘small town feel’ in this new place. I had the exciting but hard task of getting to know my classmates better, making new friends and expanding my horizons in helping the community.

The move into this new lifestyle also brought the opportunity to join the Air Cadets, I got the chance to do drill, play instruments, and go on Field Training Exercises and to summer camps.

While growing up my local squadron sure has made some lasting friendships and created great memories, but it didn’t help me tackle a problem that I first experienced when I landed in Canada. As a young boy, I have always been determined to give back to the community.

I noticed there was not a lot of attention put on initiating volunteer opportunities with local immigrant youth. As an immigrant myself, I founded the Peace Welcome Club (PWC) in an attempt to battle against the neglect immigrant youth have faced. There are various ways for immigrants to make a lasting impact by learning about local volunteering opportunities from a library, recreational centre or us at PWC.

The group and its community page inspires and motivates fellow youth to go out and create change through volunteering. As a regular volunteer myself, I help to greenscape my local ecology centre and am involved in local political affairs, world charities and school initiatives.

I love giving back to my community. As a passionate writer, I continuously write articles on a volunteer basis to increase awareness on certain issues or share a reflection on my life.

My journey of volunteering helped me to connect with those networking opportunities that I have today and have led in me jumping the hurdles in becoming an accomplished youth journalist.

In all honesty, being an immigrant isn’t easy and I am definitely not the one to say it isn’t. Both of my parents worked day and night to see the day where I could live in a healthy manner, and I cannot thank my parents enough.

A message that I would like to give to all youth and all youth immigrants is get to know your community and become involved. There is nothing worse than knowing there was an opportunity you missed. Never put the idea of being judged by others in your head, but make it a point of doing what you love.

An extended version of this article first appeared in “Our Canada” magazine.

Photo: courtesy of Harnoor Gill

Reach me at http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/harnoor-gill/89/2a/5ba or https://www.facebook.com/PeaceWelcomeClub

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About me: I am a student in Georgetown, Canada, and founder of the Peace Welcome Club. I love to volunteer, read, write, and play basketball. I volunteer with local environmental and youth organizations and am dedicated to raising awareness about youth volunteering. My writing has been published in Indo-Canadian Voice, Asian Journal, Times of India, The Independent & Free Press, and in Amazing Kids! Magazine.

https://www.facebook.com/PeaceWelcomeClub

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response.
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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