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Three out of the five awards went to Surrey youth including one award going to a gay activist from Albania who recently moved to Surrey. Winner of the January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award for 2017 is Prachi Khanna of Surrey with Runner-Ups Erjon Tela of Albania, Grace McDonell of North Vancouver, Serene Carter of Burnaby, and Ran Ya Chib of Surrey.

“Congratulations to all the winners . . . may the legacy and light of January Marie Lapuz shine on all the applicants” stated Sher Vancouver President and January’s best friend Ash Brar.

“The strength and quality and diversity of all the applicants was very impressive and it was very difficult for the selection committee to decide on an overall winner” stated Sher Vancouver Founder Alex Sangha.

WINNER | Prachi Khanna | 18 years old from Surrey, B.C. | $500 cash prize donated by Sher Vancouver

Biography | After initiating the formation of my school’s Queer Straight Alliance in September 2016, I served as the driving force— and advocate— facilitating consultations in my school’s community—with students, staff, parents and administration, to reach an agreement for the school’s first “All-student washroom”. Having witnessed first-hand, the struggles of LGBTQI++ students, who felt incommoded and unwelcomed by the system they found themselves in, I, as an ally, felt a strong need to publicly acknowledge and address the fundamental issues at hand, to provide real solutions. Fueled by my determination and persistence, I set a strong foundation to assure that the school was inclusive and welcoming for all students. Through my work, I became strongly aware of my passion to drive change for making classrooms inclusive spaces to all students. This was bolstered by my involvement in the making of SOGI 123 videos for educators across our province.

Although, I have graduated from high school, I know I have just begun to advocate for the LGBTQI++ community. Currently, I do so in my work with the President’s Diversity and Equity Council at my university and local organizations like QMUNITY. I will continue to advocate for better practices geared towards inclusion, and awareness of SOGI issues in our society. Ultimately, I intend to address issues regarding inclusion of LGBTQI++ people in scientific research, especially in the biomedical sciences.

Runner Up | Erjon Tela | 27 year old from Surrey, B.C. | (Gay activist recently moved from Albania) | $250 cash prize donated by Sher Vancouver

Biography | I have started my activism in 2010 in Albania. I started with some graffiti’s in the streets of Tirana saying “I am a boy, I love a boy” and “I am a girl, I love a girl”. I took pictures during the action and shared that with the local media. In 2012 I have been one of the organizers of the first Gay Pride in Albania. During the Pride we were attacked with homemade tube bombs. That didn’t stop us from holding the Pride every year after that. From 2014 to 2016 I have been an organizer and trainer about LGBT issues in all the Police Stations in Albania and trained the elite group the “Special Forces Shqiponja.” In 2017 I trained the students of the Police Academy.

In 2014 I was an Assistant Producer of the first documentary made for the LGBT movement in Albania. In 2014 I was one of the founders of the first Residential Shelter for the LGBT community in Albania. In 2016 I started working for the first online help line for LGBT people that was launched in December 2017.

RUNNER-UP | Serene Carter | 18 years old from Burnaby, B.C. | $250 cash prize donated by Sher Vancouver

Biography | 

Serene is a student and a youth educator who commits herself to anti-oppression work on Coast Salish Territories through involvement, education, and organization.

She is the youngest youth educator with Out in Schools, a student organizer with the Douglas College Student Union, a board member of the Burnaby SOGI committee, President of her high school’s GSA, Student Trustee in 2016, and she organized charity events that fundraised over $5000 for Queer Youth in Burnaby.

RUNNER-UP | Grace McDonell | 25 years old from North Vancouver, B.C. | $250 cash prize donated by Sher Vancouver

Biography | I am a 25 year old, openly gay, proudly feminist, law student, currently studying at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. I serve as the President of the school’s LGBTQ advocacy group, sit on the equity committee, and as an executive on the Women & Law Society. Most recently, I was part of a coalition that intervened at the Supreme Court of Canada for the Trinity Western case – a case that continues the fight for LGBTQ rights. I completed my Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy at the University of Toronto. I also completed a summer program at the University of Chicago in Academic & Professional Writing and Ethics. I received the Gordon Cressy Leadership Award and was voted as the member of the graduating class who contributed the most to the school and was considered to best represent the Class at Convocation during my undergrad.

RUNNER-UP | Ran Ya Chib | 27 years old from Surrey, B.C. | $250 cash prize donated by Sher Vancouver

Biography | Ran Ya Chib was born and raised in Vancouver, B.C. He is first generation Cambodian Canadian. He is a student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and taking up a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. As a business student he has trained to perform highly in different fields such as communications, accounting, operations management and business entrepreneurship. His dedication is what sets him apart from anybody else. With a passion for people, he understands the importance of building strong relationships with his peers and the community, based on honesty, integrity, and mutual respect. Ranya is passionate about his community involvement and has volunteered at various organizations, such as Health Initiative for Men and the Kids Help Phone. In May of 2017, He completed Totally Outright a leadership workshop for young gay, bisexual, trans, and queer guys interested in being healthy, sex-savvy change makers. He is a well-rounded individual who lives with passion, dedication, and grace.

About the January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award | The January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award is an annual award bestowed upon a deserving youth between 16 to 30 years of age who has demonstrated involvement, commitment, and leadership in the LGBTQ+ community whether locally, nationally, and/or internationally. Applications from groups who also service this age group are welcome.

Who was January? | January Marie Lapuz was born on April 9, 1986 in Santiago City, Philippines and passed away on September 30, 2012 in New Westminster, B.C. January was the Social Coordinator of Sher Vancouver. She was the first transgender person to hold an Executive position with the group. Being the life of the party, January would make everyone laugh. She was a kind, caring, generous and loyal friend. January was a great singer and dancer. She was known as our very own “Beyonce.”

January had many challenges and struggles as an immigrant, as a person of colour, and as a transgender woman living in poverty. Nonetheless, she was a bright light and shining star in Sher Vancouver. She was a fabulous MC on our “Pride of Bollywood” float in the Vancouver Pride Parade and the “Bang Bang Bollywood” dance nights. Not a day goes by that January’s friends don’t think of her. We miss her and we all know that she is watching over us like an Angel in Heaven.

What is Sher Vancouver? | Sher Vancouver is a social, cultural, and support non-profit society in British Columbia for LGBTQ+ South Asians and their friends, families, and allies. Sher provides information, education, referral, peer support, counselling, advocacy, social activities, outreach presentations to combat discrimination such as bullying, racism, homophobia, and transphobia, and volunteer opportunities for its members. Sher Vancouver is set to mark its 10th Anniversary in April 2018.

Sher Vancouver |  www.shervancouver.com 
Documentary – My Name Was January |  www.januarylapuz.net

Daman Beatty
The creator of Surrey604.com, Daman Beatty (AKA 'Beatler') is originally from Sackville, New Brunswick. A longtime media producer, visual designer, marketing and communications specialist, Daman loves travel, technology and being a Daddy.