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
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.
Shahnaz Rahimtula serving as a Notary Public for over 29 years
By: Paarull Communications Ltd.
The road to genuine gender equality is a long and constantly shifting one, owing to women who have made non-contemporary choices in their professions and set an example for the rest of us.
Shahnaz Rahimtula is one such pioneer who has inspired and led the way towards a profession that not many women would have set foot in at the time when she opened her practice. Today, she is one of the oldest South Asian female notaries with over 29 years of experience. There has been a notable change of scenarios now, where women have outnumbered men in this profession. As of today, 55 percent of notaries in British Columbia are women.
With a mission to constantly evolve and stimulate her life experiences to enhance her chosen profession, Shahnaz enabled herself through learning and education. She was commissioned as a Notary Public in 1990 and has practised continuously since then. She has consistently demonstrated strong leadership capabilities and was on the dean’s list at Capilano College where she completed a two-year financial management course and later on, in 1986, graduated as a Certified General Accountant in B.C.
Mrs. Rahimtula completely credits all the wonderful people around her who she meets through her business; they have been the biggest inspiration driving her on the path to success. Being a business professional, keeping up with family commitments and raising a family has been one of her biggest challenges but she has successfully managed both.
Shahnaz Rahimtula chose this profession partly because it gave her an opportunity to help others, which is clear from the many pro-bono or minimal charge cases she takes on for people in need. She has greatly contributed to the community by participating as a member of the Surrey Board of Trade as well as volunteering on the Audit Committee and The Information and Privacy Committee with The Society of Notaries Public of B.C. She has been on the board of PICS where they dealt with the regional concerns of immigrants and made an enormous difference in the Surrey Community with fundraising for battered women, senior homes and other causes to aid the less fortunate. Her work has made a huge difference for women in our community. In addition to all this, she is a Charter Member of the Fraserview Rotary Club. She presently serves as a co-chairperson of the Fraser Valley Chapter of the Notaries.
She strives to maintain a balanced lifestyle through her hobbies which include playing sitar, swimming and energizing through regular meditation and prayer.
Shahnaz wishes to continue to take on leadership-like roles. She strongly believes that with some strong values such as compassion and integrity, one can do wonders in building a successful career and at the same time help those around us.
Surrey Based Novel – Hooped – Michael Bains
Michael Bains is a writer, originally from Surrey, BC. His first novel, Hooped was inspired by his years growing up in the Newton area of Surrey.
Hooped is about a teenage boy – Jimmy, who is the son of immigrant parents and is the captain of his high-school basketball team.
Although quite intelligent, Jimmy doesn’t see the value in a high school education. He soon meets Sunny, who is an established drug dealer in the Surrey neighbourhood and he takes Jimmy under his wing and gives him a street-education.
As a teenager, Michael was exposed to both the good and bad sides of Surrey, and knew there was a story to tell. “I wanted Hooped to come across as being a sincere reflection of what is happening in Surrey,” Michael says.
“People often depict Surrey as being a certain type of place even though they have never lived there. They base their opinion of Surrey on what they’ve heard on the news and most of it is negative.
I wanted to use this novel as a way to go past the surface level and into the deeper issues of what is really going on.”
The novel also explores the difficulties that teenagers navigate while growing up in a world that has become so full of uncertainty and where it has become normal for kids to question the status quo.
“What some people don’t understand is that a lot of teenagers are seduced by the drug dealing lifestyle because they don’t agree with the alternatives,” Michael says.
“None of these teenagers see themselves wanting to work a 9-5 job. And that’s what high school and post secondary educations are designed to lead them into. So why would they buy into it?”
Hooped is being released at a time that is marked with civil unrest that is occurring all around the world. Michael hopes that Hooped can offer perspective on this unique time in our history.
As part of the release for Hooped, Michael is also launching his “Pursue Your Passion Series,” where different people will be highlighted who have followed something that they love doing.
“I don’t want the ‘Pursue Your Passion Series’ to be just about financial success. Because a passion can be anything. You can have a dream of running a half- marathon, or mastering an instrument, or playing a sport, or whatever. I feel like we could all live our lives with more passion.”
Canadian Veteran Trevor Greene inspires $312M Legion Veterans Village Centre of Excellence for PTSD
Greene’s ongoing brain injury and PTSD improvements from Afghanistan axe attack published in Frontiers of Human Neuroscience
Photo: Canadian veteran Trevor Greene on a peace keeping mission in Afghanistan, where he suffered a debilitating head injury from an axe attack. Today, he continues his ongoing recovery from brain injury using innovative brain technologies.
Surrey, British Columbia, Canada – With Remembrance Day fast approaching, Canadian veteran Trevor Greene shares how he continues to disrupt conventional limits in brain injury and PTSD recovery as he rewires his brain using the latest and most advanced brain technologies, fourteen years after suffering a debilitating brain injury from an axe attack while serving in a peace keeping mission in Afghanistan.
In 2015, the B.C. and Yukon Command of the Royal Canadian Legion helped outfit Trevor with a robotic exoskeleton, which helped him continue re-learning to walk. Called Project Iron Soldier, this exciting initiative inspired the development of Legion Veterans Village, a $312M Centre of Excellence for PTSD, mental health and rehabilitation dedicated to veterans and first responders. Legion Veterans Village is currently under construction in Surrey and is slated to be completed in Summer 2022.
A research team led by neuroscientist Dr. Ryan D’Arcy from the Centre for Neurology Studies at HealthTech Connex, and Simon Fraser University (SFU), reports the latest breakthroughs from Project Iron Soldier in a recently published scientific study in the Frontiers of Human Neuroscience journal, tracking Greene’s neuroplasticity as he shows physical, cognitive and PTSD improvements through his neurorehabilitation.
Capt. Greene and the Project Iron Soldier research team have continued with intensive daily rehabilitation, but the team experienced an extended plateau in progress using conventional therapy alone.
To break through the plateau, HealthTech Connex launched an intensive 14-week study using the Portable Neuromodulation Stimulator (or PoNS™) in combination with physical therapy to safely stimulate novel neuroplasticity and tracked brain vital sign improvements using NeuroCatch® Platform (or NeuroCatch®).
The PoNS is a neuromodulation technology that sends a series of small electrical impulses to the brain by stimulating the tongue (known as translingual neurostimulation). NeuroCatch is a rapid objective measure of cognitive brain function.
A number of published clinical studies demonstrate applications for both the PoNS and NeuroCatch for brain injury, with the current case study highlighting the real-world application to push the limits of recovery in physical abilities, cognitive processing, and PTSD symptoms.
“Our team has been leading clinical research to develop and validate advanced brain technologies like the PoNS and NeuroCatch Platform for a few years and have seen incredible results in terms of improved brain health and well-being,” says Dr. Ryan D’Arcy, co-founder of HealthTech Connex, which operates the Centre for Neurology Studies and an SFU professor. “When Trevor experienced a plateau in his rehabilitation, we tried intensive conventional treatment approaches, but to no avail.
It was only after combining stimulation with the PoNS device with his rehabilitation therapy that we could break through these barriers and demonstrate significant clinical improvements.”
Results of the study:
The newly published results demonstrate that PoNS neurostimulation, paired with intensive rehabilitation, may stimulate neuroplasticity to overcome an extended recovery plateau in this case as objectively measured by NeuroCatch and other brain scanning technologies. The main findings were:
- Capt. Greene showed significant gains in clinical outcome measures for physical therapy. It is noteworthy that these improvements occurred more than 14 years after the axe attack. Capt. Greene and his wife Debbie Greene also reported notable and lasting improvements in cognition and PTSD symptoms.
- Capt. Greene showed significant brain vital sign improvements in cognitive function, particularly in auditory sensation (as measured by the N100 response), basic attention (as measured by P300 response), and cognitive processing (as measured by N400 response). The study results are published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
Dr. D’Arcy describes the study results:
“We were fascinated to see that, while the focus was physical therapy, NeuroCatch scans detected cognitive improvements and Trevor and his wife Debbie reported greatly reduced PTSD symptoms.
My favorite line in this published paper was when Debbie closed the study by saying, ‘I got my superman back.’ In our COVID-19 era, when we are all concerned about the recent links to brain health, it is breakthroughs like this that bring continued hope for science and technology advances.”
Says Capt. Greene, “I first saw the power of neuroplasticity in the early days of the first study involving the MRI. I was blown away when Ryan showed me images of my brain with coloured splotches showing where my healthy brain tissue was taking over for the damaged bits.
Later on, I saw the full power of the PoNS device when I got demonstrably stronger, steadier and more coordinated after using it regularly for just a few weeks. It’s really been a game changer for me and my family.”
“Trevor’s amazing progress is no doubt pushing the frontiers of medical science by overcoming perceived limits of brain recovery,” says Dr. Shaun Fickling, the study’s lead author who completed his PhD at Simon Fraser University.
“These brain imaging results provide valuable insight into the importance of unleashing the power of neuroplasticity to inspire countless people impacted by brain and mental health conditions.”
Capt. Greene and Dr. D’Arcy recounted their remarkable progress and showcased their mission to lead scientific breakthroughs in neuroplasticity through a recent TEDx talk.
Dr. D’Arcy concludes, “These neuro-technology breakthroughs have considerable impacts to inspire many of us to push beyond conventional limits in neurological and mental health recovery.
For our veterans and first responders, who remain resilient in the face of frequent exposure to trauma, this research and science underpins the inspiration for our newly developed Legion Veterans Village, to give back through a Centre of Excellence in PTSD, mental health, and rehabilitation.”
For more about the PoNS treatment, visit the Surrey Neuroplasticity Clinic.
About HealthTech Connex Inc. :
Located in the Health and Technology District, HealthTech Connex Inc. (HTC) is a brain technology company focusing on cutting-edge innovations and services for rapid impact on health improvements and outcomes in neurological performance.
With brain vitality as a premier focus, HealthTech Connex provides translational neuroscience innovations to care and community sectors worldwide, bridging the gap between what is capable in the laboratory and what’s available in the real world.
It operates the Surrey Neuroplasticity Clinic (SNPC), a neuro-rehabilitation clinic in Surrey, British Columbia, focusing on comprehensive therapies using advanced, non-invasive brain technologies to help treat people with neurological conditions. www.healthtechconnex.com
Legion Veterans Village (LVV) :
The Legion Veterans Village is a unique $312-million, two-phase, multi-purpose social infrastructure project in the City of Surrey, led by the BC/Yukon Command of the Royal Canadian Legion, together with Whalley Legion Branch 229 and Lark Group.
The project includes a mix of 495 market housing condominiums, 91 affordable housing units, a Centre of Excellence for veterans and first responders focusing on PTSD and mental health, an Innovation Centre for Rehabilitation and a new facility for the Whalley Legion Branch 229.
Once completed (slated for Summer 2022), a key priority will be the integrated delivery of a continuum of programs and services for veterans and first responders, as well as contributing training and research towards new practices, interventions and technologies in mental health, counselling, engineering, robotics and advancements in neuroscience, etc. www.legionveteransvillage.com
Sher Vancouver releases “Queersome Desi Resources.”
Surrey, British Columbia – Sher Vancouver is proud to release “Queersome Desi Resources” which is a specially curated list of Queer South Asian Resources from around the world. The resource was created to celebrate, liberate, and validate our queer South Asian community.
We have created an extensive list including inspiring reads, podcasts, movies, creative projects and have featured around 20 noteworthy Queers in our community. This resource highlights global queer organizations to build an inclusive community by supporting each other. Let us come together and celebrate our South Asian queer community who are living their truths unapologetically. We are so grateful for your representation!
The resource was created by Sher Vancouver Women’s Coordinators Sharon and Anoushka. “I am grateful to help create this resource collection for Sher Vancouver, as it has been my saviour in my own self-healing, and acceptance journey. I quickly dismantled the belief of me being the only queer Punjabi person in the community working on this collection.
Instead, what I found was a plethora of queer South Asian platforms! All it took was determined searching of the Internet. I hope you too find comfort, hope, empowerment, and pride in these resources. Desi queers are here. Desi queers exist. and Desi queers are thriving” states Sharon.”
“Being a part of this project makes me incredibly proud as it presented an opportunity to give back to the Desi queer community. For someone who has relatively recently accepted their own identity and was on a journey to find resources, people to rely on and organizations to be a part of, a list like this would have been a great place to start.
The lack of queer representation growing up made me feel isolated and unsure but through this project I have learnt that acceptance and empowerment is present no matter who you are and where you are from. Among these resources and people, I hope you find what I was able to. Embrace who you are,” states Anoushka.
“I feel Sharon and Anoushka did an exceptional job with curating the Queersome Desi Resources for Sher Vancouver. This project creates awareness and visibility of the global South Asian queer community. South Asian queers are not alone in this world,” states Sher Vancouver Founder Alex Sangha.
Queersome was designed by one of Metro Vancouver’s most talented graphic designers Jag Nagra of https://www.jagnagra.com/
The Queersome Desi Resources is part of a three-part series designed to provide information to the LGBTQ + community. This three-part series project consists of:
1. Legal Resources Kit which consists of three documents:
a. LGBTQ+ Friendly Lawyer Referrals
b. Information Regarding Human Rights
c. Safe Countries for LGBTQ+ Travellers
2. Queersome Desi Resources (South Asian Queer Resources from around the world)
3. Sher’s Pink Directory which will list organizations that fund the LGBTQ + community in Metro Vancouver (coming soon)
The resources are available for free download for everyone on the Sher Vancouver website under RESOURCES at the following link: https://www.shervancouver.com/resources.html
Love at First Sight: A Mother’s Journey to Adoption
Raj Arneja’s new book evokes powerful emotions of becoming a mother
Raj Arneja’s joy to motherhood is her most fulfilling life experience. Her journey is filled with emotions and strife, after traveling thousands of miles from Canada to India which led her to a happiness beyond her own expectations.
Raj, the Director of Corporate Engagement and Philanthropy at Nanak Foods, recently announced the launch of her extremely personal and thought-provoking book, Love at First Sight – A Mother’s Journey to Adoption, which chronicles her journey to adopting her two beautiful children Kabir and Kirti. The book promises to inspire you to never give up hope, no matter what life throws at you.
In her book, Raj describes the challenges she faced in the 1990’s while trying to adopt her now grown up children. The stigma surrounding adoption in the South Asian community gave Raj a reason to pen her story, share her experiences and inspire people to take a chance on life and parenthood.
“Like most people, I have faced many challenges in life. Not being able to conceive was heartbreaking at first and I longed to feel the love and joy of a baby. While I felt the sadness, I was also not ready to give up,” says Raj. “I knew I would love and experience it all through adoption. With a strong will and stronger love for children, I adopted my two kids. Every day since then has been a blessing. It has been the best decision of my life.”
Raj has always believed that giving birth to a child is not the only thing that makes a woman a mother. It is the unconditional love you have for your child that makes you one. Love at First Sight – A Mother’s Journey to Adoption will inspire young mothers and aspiring parents exploring the option to adopt a child.
Raj loves her children more than anyone in the world and she hopes that her book will inspire more people to adopt, or diminish the stigma surrounding adoption. People who have read Raj’s book have found it to be of wise council.
“I hope my chosen path and my struggles can help someone find their way to undying love, just as I have with my children,” she says.
Rajiee M Shinde, CEO, ShowBox Channel of IN10 Media Pvt Ltd. A Dada Saheb Phalke Film Foundation award winner was enamored by her story. Rajiee says, “With powerful words, and wonderfully exhibited emotions, Raj gives you an insight into how her struggles and accomplishments shape her as a mother. Her journey to date is evidence of what a complete and beautiful human being she is – a remarkable example for society!”
Dr. Bal Pawa, Co-Founder Westcoast Women’s Clinic, Author of The Mind-Body Cure and TedX Speaker, found the book ‘compelling’. “This book highlights the power of love: unconditional, expansive, and infinite. Raj’s incredible perseverance and unwavering faith in a higher purpose fuel her maternal instinct to never give up.
Heart-wrenching emotions are illustrated in the trials and tribulations of IVF treatments, cultural expectations, and navigating unknown waters of overseas adoptions. I especially loved her explanation of adoption to her child, “you came from my heart.” This unforgettable reframing of biology should certainly inspire more couples to adopt.”
“A remarkable story of perseverance, love and family. Raj’s life story is an inspiration. Her journey to motherhood reminds us all of the power of intention and manifesting the life we wish to have. This book is a must read for anyone looking for an uplifting and refreshing take on finding purpose and meaning through all of life’s adventures and challenges.” – Bal Brach, CBC Journalist, Documentary Filmmaker, Reporter CBC Vancouver
The book is available on Amazon:
About Raj Arneja
Born into an immigrant family and raised in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada, Raj’s childhood memories are full of colourful stories of supporting family and friends as they settled into their new country and adjusted to new customs and traditions. Raj works hard at building relationships within the community through her work at Nanak Foods.
She directs the company’s philanthropic initiatives, including strategy, programming, and partnership development, and the day-to-day operation of all corporate contributions. Raj also sits on various boards, where she adds value through her skills and experience. She is a well-known entity in the South Asian community in the Vancouver area.
Raj enjoys supporting various charitable, non-profit community organizations, including the Seva Thrift Society, VISAFF, and two girls’ orphanages in Punjab. Raj strongly feels that humanity has no borders and we should reach out and help wherever we are able to, regardless of race, gender or nationality. Raj lives in Surrey, British Columbia, with her husband and 2 children. She is an avid traveler and has travelled to over 60 countries, many times with her children and to some as a volunteer.
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