The Canada India Education Society (CIES) has a decades-long history of striving to make an impact among under-served communities in both India and Canada. But, its story began long before the inception of CIES. Its founders, Barj Dhahan and his father, Budh Singh Dhahan, were pioneers of the mission to change lives for the poor and less educated in rural Punjab. Specifically, their work centred on the villages where they lay claim to their roots: Dhahan Kaleran.
I want to uplift the poor and less educated, especially young girls and women.-Budh Singh Dhahan
The words above capture the vision and essence of what the Dhahan family sought to do, and is still accomplishing through CIES today.
Below is a timeline of events leading up to the inception of CIES, and its major accomplishments to 2021.
MARCH 29, 1979 – FEB. 6, 1981
The Guru Nanak Mission Medical and Educational Trust (GN Trust) is created as a body, in India, and then completes its final steps to be registered under the Societies Registration Act in India. Mr. Budh Singh Dhahan (S. Budh Singh Ji) is the founding president.
17 acres of land are donated to the GN Trust by the Dhahan village, along with 6 acres by the Kaleran village in Northern India.
A 40-bed hospital opens in Dhahan Kaleran, called the Guru Nanak Mission Hospital. Its mission is to provide rural communities with affordable healthcare services. A special ceremony is held, and the Governor of Punjab, B.D. Panday, comes to inaugurate it. Housing for doctors is also built in the same year, on the same campus where the hospital is situated.
Guru Nanak Mission Public School is founded by GN Trust, with a new building inside the hospital campus in Dhahan-Kaleran. It becomes affiliated with the Punjab School Education Board (PSEB). Its goal is to “uplift the standard of children of rural areas by giving them quality education at reasonable fees.” It has an intake of 100 students.
1992 – 2018
GN Trust opens a residential substance abuse rehabilitation facility in rural Punjab in collaboration with the Red Cross. It is called the Red Cross De-Addiction & Rehabilitation Centre.
The centre has 16 official beds and is always running over its limit. The 30-day program boasts a 100% completion rate.
The Canada-India Education Society (CIES) is incorporated under the Societies Act of the Province of British Columbia. Its mission statement is to “Provide Educational Opportunities And Access to Healthcare Resources.”
By 1992, it completes its final step to become an official registered, Canadian charity.
1992 – 2006
The Guru Nanak Mission Hospital reaches the capacity of a 200-bed hospital with multiple departments. This makes it one of the largest medical and health campuses in Punjab, able to meet fluctuating demand. On average, about 100 beds are used daily.
The expansion also provides opportunities for the BSc.N students at the Guru Nanak College of Nursing to obtain real-life, clinical experience.
The Guru Nanak Mission Public School begins offering all grades, from 1 to 12.
The Guru Nanak Mission Institute of Nursing becomes the Guru Nanak College of Nursing. It begins offering a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSc.N) degree in partnership with the Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar and the University of British Columbia (UBC) School of Nursing in Vancouver. It is one of the first nursing degree programs in Punjab and the first to be established in a rural area.
CIES supports exchange trips between the two schools, between 1998 – 2006.
2001 – 2005
CIES raises over $400,000, largely thanks to the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) for the Building Capacity for Primary Health Care in Rural Punjab project, in partnership with GN Trust. The project aims to improve access to preventive health care in the sixty rural communities surrounding Dhahan Kaleran.
UBC School of Nursing faculty and students travel to India to accompany the project team on visits to villages.
Guru Nanak Mission Public School increases its capacity to nearly 1300 students. It also becomes affiliated with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) in New Delhi to offer an English medium, co-educational curriculum to both elementary and high school students.
Guru Nanak College of Nursing begins offering a two-year, Post Basic B.Sc. Nursing Degree affiliated with Baba Farid University of Health Sciences in Faridkot. It is recognized by the Punjab Government, Punjab Nurses Registration Council in Chandigarh and Indian Nursing Council in New Delhi.
2011 – 2014
CIES facilitates a partnership with Baba Farid University of Health Sciences in India and the UBC School of Nursing in Canada.
The goal is to use the strengths of UBC’s nursing school to enhance the capacity and curriculum of nursing education in India at a state level.
The Canada-India Centre for Excellence (CICE) in Science, Technology, Trade, and Policy is established at Carleton University in Ottawa, thanks in large part to an $800,000+ donation from Barj & Rita Dhahan, Sarup & Indy Mann, Ajit & Manjit Thandi, Gurtek & Kuljinder Shoker, Harinder K. Dhahan and friends. This donation comes from personal efforts, though many of the donors are CIES members. Funds are also raised by the Indo-Canadian community in Toronto and Ottawa.
CIES becomes a community partner with the India-Canada Centre for Innovative Multidisciplinary Partnerships to Accelerate Community Transformation and Sustainability (IC-IMPACTS).
The goal is to build IC-IMPACTS as a pan-Canadian and pan-Indian Centre for applied research to find solutions for water, health and sustainable infrastructure through partnerships.
The Dhahan Prize for Punjabi Literature is launched in collaboration with the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia (UBC).
The goal is to promote the growth of Punjabi language globally.
CIES launches the Dhahan Village Improvement Project in partnership with the Dhahan village council (i.e., the “gram panchayat”). It enlists the Babar Karam Singh Village Improvement Trust for management of the project.
The goal of the project is to reduce infectious disease by building a sanitary sewer system that all households will be connected to. The project also aims to pave village lanes and to close open drains in those village lanes.
The Dhahan Prize Youth Award is launched in partnership with L.A. Matheson Secondary of the Surrey School District (in British Columbia, Canada). Coast Capital Savings is a sponsor.
CICE and Guru Nanak College of Nursing sign an agreement to provide short term training programs for nursing students from India. CIES supports this effort with initial donations for registrations and administrative tasks to receive funds to pay for the program.
Afterwards, Carleton delivers online training programs for the nursing faculty at Guru Nanak College of Nursing.
2019 – 2021
Guru Nanak Mission Hospital services in excess of 140,000 patients.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Guru Nanak Mission Hospital is one of a couple hospitals in the Shaheed Bhagat Singh District to remain open 24 hours per day. It is the only charitable and private hospital in the district to set up a special isolation unit to take care of COVID-19 positive patients.
Barj Dhahan, founder of CIES, leads the effort to raise funds to provide personal protective equipment, and to support the salaries of support staff at the hospital.