BY BALWANT SANGHERA
THERE are very few people in the world who through their courage and determination channel their grief to help others. Dina Basi is one such person who is also great role model for others. She is the founder of Hannah and Amelia’s Angels Foundation, a registered charity in Canada that helps fund free education to children living in the slums in an area of West Delhi in India.
This Foundation was created by Dina in memory of her two daughters – Hannah and Amelia – both of whom were stillborn two years apart. Dina made it her mission to keep Hannah and Amelia’s memory alive by helping other children in need. To this day, this Foundation has raised close to $118,000 to fund projects locally and overseas.
Not only that, Dina also accepted another challenge. Every year, on Hannah and Amelia’s birthdays (May 3 and June 15, respectively) she makes sandwiches and heads downtown to feed the homeless people living on the streets in on one of Canada’s poorest neighbourhoods.
This tireless, courageous and compassionate individual keeps on taking on more and more challenges to serve others. This past June she asked couple of her close friends to help her make 200 sandwiches to donate to Door is Open project operating in Downtown East area. In order to plant a seed for community service in the minds of her nephews and nieces, Dina got them involved in this process.
This was the beginning of making meals for the needy on a much larger scale. When Christmas was just around the corner, Dina decided to prepare meals for those in need. Though Christmas is a time to celebrate, yet it can be especially hard on people who may have lost their loved ones. Dina’s friend Danny had tragically lost his 17-year-old son Jaylen. When she approached Danny with this idea, he was more than pleased to collaborate with her. They set a goal of making and serving 1,000 meals to the needy.
This collaboration set the stage for 400 meals for the needy in 10 locations of Lookout Shelter in Surrey and New Westminster. This still left the making and serving of 600 meals to the needy, homeless and hungry people as Dina’s gift to them for Christmas. This is where the Carnegie Community Centre stepped in to assist and suggested homeless people of nearby Oppenheimer Park in downtown Vancouver. Having lined up the potential recipients for meals and clothing, Dina went to work collecting donations of clothing, food and other items that could be handed out to the needy around Christmas time.
India Cultural Centre of Canada Gurdwara Nanak Niwas in Richmond was happy to let Dina use its facilities to cook food. Thus, on December 22, she had more than 100 volunteers – children, parents, grandparents, relatives and friends – come out to the gurdwara and help create the magic.
Dina states that she was very impressed with the spirit of giving and helping by so many people and organizations. After the prepping, cooking and packing of meals at the #5 Road Gurdwara, Dina’s group also collected clothing items and toiletries for the shelters in Surrey and Downtown Eastside. They rented a U-Haul van to transport the items.
The recipients of food, clothing and other items were thrilled at the generosity of donors, volunteers and wonderful organizers like Dina and Danny. Afterwards, Dina stated that God’s work is flawless. She pledged to continue this noble task. In addition to that, Dina stated that her Foundation has a fundraiser every year to help raise money to provide free education to the children living in poverty in India. It is her Foundation’s hope that that it can lead the children from a life of poverty to a life of stability and opportunity.
She remarked: “I feel proud to be Hannah and Amelia’s mother. It is because of them and their short presence in my life I have been given this opportunity to do so much for others.”
Dedicated and compassionate people like Dina are a great credit not only to the South Asian community but also to the community at large.
Keep up the good work, Dina!
Balwant Sanghera is a retired school psychologist and community activist.