“I want to uplift the poor and less educated, especially young girls and women.”
The words above capture Mr. Budh Singh Dhahan’s life mission. He is the inspirational founder and past president of Guru Nanak Mission Medical & Educational Trust in Punjab, India and he is also one of the founders of Canada India Education Society in Vancouver. Through his leadership, these charitable organizations have a long-established partnership of working together creatively to promote social development in rural Punjab through community-based health care, education, and job creation.
After nearly two decades of distinguished service in community development as a social and political activist in Punjab, India, Mr. Budh Singh Dhahan came to Canada in 1959 and settled in the vibrant lumber town of Port Alberni, British Columbia. In the summer of 1967, his wife and four of his children also arrived from India.
In the 1960s, Mr. Dhahan worked in the lumber industry and, in the 1970s, he established a successful construction enterprise in Vancouver. In these years Mr. Dhahan was active in local community causes, and at one time served as the general secretary of Khalsa Diwan Society in Vancouver, the oldest and largest Sikh organization in Canada. Under his leadership, new initiatives such as English classes for new immigrants and programs to help strengthen the relationships between Indo-Canadians and the larger community were launched. During these years he was inspired by the work of Canadian charities and volunteers. Education for girls and gender equality issues remained close to Mr. Dhahan’s heart, and he continued to dream of returning to his homeland to help the poor and less educated.
In 1984, Mr. Dhahan’s dream came true. With the help of family and friends in Vancouver, and the people and councils of Dhahan and Kaleran villages, he opened a 40-bed hospital in the Nawanshahar District region of Punjab.
In 1987, an elementary and secondary school was started. The Guru Nanak College of Nursing was opened in 1993 with a diploma program in nursing, and in 1998 a baccalaureate degree program in nursing began with an intake of 50 students. A collaboration with the University of British Columbia (UBC) School of Nursing involving faculty and student exchange, and development of nursing curriculum began shortly afterwards.
Mr. Dhahan’s dream continues to be realized as CIES embarks on new projects in India.