Vanie Chahal: A passionate activist with the will to change the world

Vanie Chahal: A passionate activist with the will to change the world

Vanie Chahal, 20, India

 My friend, Reesha, (left) and I during the Louise Arbour Secondary School Water Walk Cover credit: Vanie Chahal

My friend, Reesha, (left) and I during the Louise Arbour Secondary School Water Walk
Cover credit: Vanie Chahal

Namaste! My name is Vanie Chahal. I am 20 years old and I come from the land of exotic spices, vibrant hues and exuberant cultures, India. I was born and brought up in the city of Ludhiana, Punjab, and I went to high school in the beautiful city of Brampton, Canada, after moving there six years ago. I feel very blessed to be able to savor the experiences that both of these nations have to offer.

Currently, I am back in my hometown, pursuing a Law degree at Punjab University.

I consider myself an artistic person, for my soul searches for everything from traveling and taking pictures (posing too) to painting and cooking. My passion for food is such that I wish to open my own café one day.

As for law, the interest was ignited in ninth grade when I raised the most money in my school for the Me to We charity and was bestowed upon the honor of becoming the “Principal of the School for a Day” as well as the “Personal Ambassador” of our school’s visiting namesake, former U.N. High Commissioner Madame Louise Arbour for that day. Words cannot describe the inferno of inspiration that ensued.

 Water Walk participants Credit: Vanie Chahal

Water Walk participants
Credit: Vanie Chahal

Soon, I started a “Water & Sanitation Campaign,” which included a wide array of events that shed light on the lack of access to clean water and sanitation in developing countries. One of the events I initiated was my school’s first-ever “Water Walk,” where over 200 students and staff members carried buckets of water around the school track to emulate what women and children are compelled to do every day to fetch water. The purpose was to raise awareness and evoke a sense of empathy for the underprivileged in the minds of the participants.

Another campaign was “The Water Challenge,” where participants were asked to refrain from drinking bottled drinks and drink tap water instead for three to four weeks. The money thus saved was later donated and formed part of the proceeds for building a hand pump for a family of five in Kenya. In addition, I set up booths to sell homemade body scrubs made from natural materials, such as honey, coffee and turmeric, to raise awareness about the lack of sanitation in developing nations.

As the President of the Social Justice Club in my senior years, I helped organize a wide array of fundraising events such as the annual Charity Day, Christmas Flea Market, Day of Silence and Halloween Food Drive, along with completing all five pillars of Water, Sanitation and Healthcare, and Agriculture and Alternate Sources of Income for a village we adopted in Sierra Leone.

 One of the winning teams during the closing ceremony of the STEM Olympics Credit: Vanie Chahal

One of the winning teams during the closing ceremony of the STEM Olympics
Credit: Vanie Chahal

Apart from actively undertaking social initiatives, I am also very much involved academically. As a junior in high school, I founded a movement of my own, the STEM Olympics, an annual, fun-filled event replete with student competitions in science, tech, engineering and math. In one word, the STEM Olympics is a celebration of all things science.

My friends and I used to joke that we were the “modern kind of nerds.” But if I contemplate this, I really think the term applies. I do everything and anything with my utmost passion, hard work and creative energy. I guess it was this philosophy that led me to graduate high school with the highest marks — at 96.9 percent — with the “Governor General Medal” award on behalf of Canadian Governor General David Johnston.

I am certain that this philosophy won’t let me down in my quest to create a difference, however big or small it may be, in our world. What’s better, the Youth Assembly at the United Nations this summer would be the perfect opportunity to get to work.

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