Harnoor Gill is already a superstar at volunteering, and other young people are following his lead to start early
Now here’s some good news: a 14-year-old is spending his free time volunteering and is after other young people to do the same. Born in Hong Kong, Harnoor Gill is already an internationally known youth leader for his commitment and determination to make the world better tomorrow by starting today. Harnoor has already clocked close to 1,000 volunteer hours with 20 different groups.
What drives him in his volunteering efforts? He lives in Georgetown, Ontario, where he arrived with his family in 2002, and strongly believes that everyone should give back to their community in whatever way they can: help the elderly, the sick, the disabled, and help the environment.
“I don’t want youth of my community to start thinking of volunteer work only when they start 9th grade. They can start at an earlier age!” This is what motivates him to encourage youth to volunteer, and he stresses that the 40 hours of community work for their high school diploma is only the beginning, not the end.
Harnoor is of the Sikh faith and says that both the Hindu and Sikh religions inspired him to care for the environment. Both faiths, in fact, recognize the sacredness of nature. However, he was convinced he wanted to do something when he saw the lack of volunteers at the environmental parks in Canada, and he began volunteering there.
The result? Many young people started to follow his lead and become “builders” in their local communities. “You feel proud that you helped someone and did a good deed,” he said.
“When I was very young, I saw a poor kid lightly dressed, shivering in the cold, harsh winter on the street in India. I was shocked, and at that moment decided to help less-fortunate people as much as I can.”
In 2011 he began the “Jeans Green Drive” and raised enough money to donate hundreds of gently used jeans to youth in India, which he personally delivered. “Besides helping those in need, this is a way to help the environment by recycling,” he says.
Being active in the organization of BioDiversity Matters conferences, last February Harnoor represented his school as a member of the POWER (Protect Our Water Resources and Environmental Resources) youth caucus.
“I was struck,” he wrote in Oye!Times, “by the number of people who actually attended the conference: 250 students, teachers and experts. It was an opportunity for students to reconnect with nature, become aware of their local parks and conservation areas, and learn what they could do to help out in their community.”
Harnoor is one of the youngest members on the Halton Youth Advisory Council in Ontario, which is promoting a “Change the World” campaign. The youth work alongside the regional government and meet regularly. They give youth a perspective, strategy and input on how to engage in civics.
In 2011 they ran an international volunteer week, where 10,000 youth volunteered three hours a week each for three weeks and shared their skills and talents. “It was a proud moment for youth volunteerism and was a great success while changing the world.”
Harnoor believes peace means building relationships and he began the Peace Welcome Club. Mahatma Gandhi’s words, “You must be the change you want to see in the world,” are close to his heart and lifestyle.
By Maria Dalgarno