“Hello” may be an everyday word for us but a young girl from Vancouver is making efforts to ensure that homeless people from the city’s Downtown Eastside are also able to rekindle the warmth of this word once again in their lives.
The 20-year-old Anoop Virk is the co-founder of H.E.L.L.O (Helping Everyone Locate Loved Ones), a project that helps residents of the Downtown Eastside reconnect with their friends and family across the country. This project has helped 450 people rediscover their lost loved ones.
Virk is now an inspiration for her ten-year-old brother and countless others who want to make a difference in their community. For her, this is a source of pride.
"My biggest accomplishment would have to be seeing my ten-year-old brother become a compassionate and caring individual. I love him being interested in my projects, and seeing his character form, from going down to the Downtown Eastside to help the homeless, to collecting his toys for me to bring down to Africa. From my household to beyond, it's wonderful to see others become inspired from what I love to do, and continue the work, as it becomes a ripple effect of positivity.”
Born and raised in Vancouver, Virk completed her French immersion dogwood degree in high school, and was enrolled in the Douglas-SFU Dual degree program. She then completed her Associates of Arts in Intercultural and International Studies degree at Douglas College, and is currently majoring in International Studies at Simon Fraser University to complete her BA.
Her latest endeavor is Project L.O.V.E (Letting Our Voices Empower) which focuses on education, gender equality, and giving girls equal access to opportunities.
On her trip to Zambia this summer, she started working to build Project L.O.V.E under which she is hoping to establish a primary community school in rural Zambia. The project envisages to create a platform for gender equality in the education system for both girls and boys, thus giving vulnerable children access to education, income generating skills, providing health care, lunch programs, technology, and more. This school is providing a poverty-struck area with a chance for children to get an education to reach their full potential and give girls the
empowerment and equal access to opportunities. On seeing her dream translate into reality Virk seems nothing less than ecstatic.
“I can't explain the feeling to see a dream become a reality in front of your eyes. When I saw the construction of the bore hole on our land, I broke out into tears, and I couldn't believe that this clean water was going to be accessible for all the children and surrounding areas.”
Her outstanding accomplishments have led her to interact with some of the most influential personalities around the globe such as Ndaba Mandela, Chelsea Clinton, Prince William and Stephen Harper. Virk feels she is blessed to have had such remarkable opportunities but her first and foremost inspiration in life remains her mother. When describing her mother she says, “Her life story is a true inspiration and shows her resilience - she grew up in a small village in India, and via an arranged marriage came to Canada, and soon became a single mother with no money, family, and didn't speak English. Today, she has her Master’s in Education, three national bestselling cookbooks, and hosts two TV shows, she is the best role model.”
This 20-year-old is highly motivated about her future undertakings as well. “I love the path that I'm on, and I don't exactly know where it's going to lead me, but I do know that I'm going to continue my philanthropic work locally and globally, and I am excited to see the progress of those projects, and how they will help people.”
She is also looking forward to her last year at university, and is hoping to attend Law School later. Having attended Vancouver Acting School, Virk says she wants to keep her opportunities and possibilities open.
Moreover, she feels it is essential to know what you want and to then be confident about it. For Virk, maintaining a positive stance is essential and staying strong in the face of obstacles is also imperative.
“If you believe in an idea, don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it, the fact that you are trying to make a positive difference is a beautiful mindset, and that's something to already be proud of. Seek out mentors - learn from people who have been on their journey, and learn from their mistakes, and ask for their advice.”
PHOTO: Anoop Virk, Project Love, Richard Dolmat Photography