“When I truly started to understand who I am and what I am capable of is when I found success. Every success does come with failure but that failure is what helped me truly learn about me.”
In 2016 Winona Bhatti was awarded the 'HSBC Woman Leader of Tomorrow' award for Western Canada at the prestigious Enactus Canada Regional Exposition for her strong commitment in providing sustainable solutions to deprived individuals and communities. Presently enrolled in SFU’s Beedie School of Business, this young leader has anchored her future in working towards the larger society by using a unique approach of aligning business with social causes. “People think business is for people who want to make money. I really want to change that around,” says the enthusiastic leader.
As a woman leader of tomorrow, Winona exemplifies the spirit of community building through participation and engagement. With more than 9,000 hours in volunteer work, she has made an impact on thousands of lives through projects and various fundraising campaigns. As president of Enactus SFU, Bhatti led a team of 196 individuals to run 10 different programs. “The whole mission of Enactus is to empower post secondary students to find a need in the community and then address that need by creating programs.” One of these programs called, Count On Me, focused on providing financial literacy to at-risk youth and single mothers by engaging them in a nine-week workshop where they were taught budgeting, banking and employability.
In order for Winona to excel while dividing her time between major responsibilities, roles, studies and community building, her family played a crucial role. Her mother, Amrit Bhatti, host and producer of popular South Asian program, Amrit Bhatti Talk Show, has been a major support pillar for the young influential leader. It was during one of these episodes hosted by Amrit that Winona was made aware of a practice in India where female babies were either killed or abandoned due to societal stigmas. This impacted Winona deeply and she decided to launch HUG (Helping Underprivileged Children) Charity Canada to promote education and development of children in Guinea. “Initially, I wanted to open the school in India but I did research and found that the biggest need was in Guinea.”
When she was working on the logistics and infrastructure of the project, Winona would often be asked why she chose Africa and not India. Very wisely she would reply, “The biggest thing is that we are all humans and we should all be there to support each other. That place needed the most support at that time and I provided it.” To realize her goal, Winona organized a fundraiser with 450 attendees and was able to raise $14,000 towards the development of the project.
Another support system she credits is the Beedie School of Business. “Whether it be getting a co-op or actually engaging in Enactus, I’ve always had someone there step forward not only to be beside me but also to tell me ‘no’ and tell me that what I am thinking of is probably the weirdest and most obscure thing they have ever heard. Those type of people are necessary.”
To conquer these various accomplishments at such a young age is certainly commendable, especially considering the challenges Winona had to overcome in the process. She explains one of these challenges saying, “When I first started Enactus, I wasn’t the most confident person. My philosophy has been ‘fake it till you make it.’” Winona had applied to be president of Enactus a year before but soon took out her application. “I started to realize that the real reason I had dropped out was because I was scared.”
She did ultimately apply the following year and the events that followed afterwards proved to be one of the most significant moments in her life. “I gave a lot to Enactus but definitely Enactus has given more back to me. The confidence that I have now, the confidence that I walk with is what is going to help me through the next years of my life.”