For Harnoor Gill, volunteering became a huge influence on his life at a very young age. He was just three years old when his parents introduced him to community service and the act of giving to others. From then on, there was no stopping him.
Now at age 15, Gill’s enthusiasm to help others has only grown. Gill was born in Hong Kong to Indian parents and was still very young when his family moved to Canada. Like any immigrant, he too found it difficult at first to adjust to a new culture. This prompted him to start the Peace Welcome Club (PWC) in February 2012.
The club helps young newcomers to the country become more involved in the community by providing them with volunteer opportunities. It also helps to improve their self-confidence through leadership skills development.
Before starting PWC, Gill dedicated a lot of his time volunteering at many nonprofit organizations including: Halton Children’s Aid Society, Spelling Bee of Canada, Willow Park Ecology Centre, P.O.W.E.R. (Protect Our Water and Environmental Resources), Georgetown Hospital Foundation and 820 Chris Hadfield Air Cadets.
The grade 10 student at Christ the King Catholic Secondary School in Georgetown, Ontario, credits his parents for his early involvement in volunteering and revealed that they were the ones who gave him the idea of family volunteering.
Because of its positive effects on the community, PWC has drawn a lot of attention in Ontario as well as in other countries. PWC volunteers range children as young as four years old up to teens.
The youth participate in family volunteering, which helps them to keep up with community issues and raise money for various causes. Supporters from Brampton, Mississauga, Halton Hills and the Peel Region also assist with various PWC projects.
Some of the PWC projects include the Jean Green Drive, which provides gently used jeans to poor and homeless; Book Drive, which helps to improve literacy rates among youth; Shoreline Cleanup; and No Hungry Children.
Gill has been volunteering for almost 11 years now and uses whatever time he can spare to make a difference in his community, even if that means sacrificing precious sleep on the weekends or having to stay up extra hours on school nights.
He uses social media to inform people of the work that he and the volunteers do at PWC. PWC, now in its third year, is accepting nominations for Peace Builder of the Year targeted at those between the ages of 8 and 18.
The selection will be based on criteria such as the depth of initiative, number of beneficiaries, creativity behind the effort, etc. The chosen candidates will be featured in their local newspaper.
Gill has received many accolades and awards for his volunteering efforts; the International Diana Award, South Asian Teen of the Year Award, International Young Eco-Hero Award and the Citizen Youth Award, just to name a few. The most significant award for him was The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award that he won in 2012. The award honours noteworthy achievements and contributions of Canadians in their communities.
Through the Peace Welcome Club, Gill wants to let young people know that age is not a barrier when it comes to volunteering and that anyone can make a difference if they put their minds to it.
Gill is very passionate about the environment and issues affecting today’s youth. He contributed articles in various newspapers in the hopes that his story would encourage more young people to get involved in their communities.
“I’d like PWC to become a registered non-profit organization in the future and help sponsor other people so they too can raise their initiatives. If people have ideas, we are willing to support it,” Gill said. He also enjoys reading, writing and playing his guitar but his passion will always be volunteering. “The biggest reward is the joy on the faces of the people who benefit from volunteering,” said Gill. His message to those who wish to volunteer is simple: “Youth can do so much to help build a community. If I can do it, you can do it too.”