Gurpreet Dhillon's Story

He is a husband, dad of two boys, son of a steel worker and a Brampton City Councillor. Meet Gurpreet Dhillon as he shares his volunteer story which has led him to where he is today.
 
Born in Windsor, Gurpreet's family moved to Malton when he was 10 years old which presented his first exposure to multiculturalism. Living in an at-risk neighbourhood where kids were getting into trouble, he was 14 years old when he volunteered to help run the Friday night basketball drop in program and in doing so learned leadership skills, team work and how to interact with others. This led to other volunteering roles. Later, during his late teens, he ran a free summer camp called Raptor Ball, youth camps and winter camps for kids.
 
Between his early 20s and early 30s he worked with the Toronto police. An opportunity arose to tackle ongoing problems in the South Asian community, such as tackling youth gangs, drug related crimes, as well as elder abuse. To address these issues, he became a member of the South Asian Consultative Committee, advising police on religious traditions, giving them insight and guidance on the South Asian culture. He also organized a forum for South Asian youth to discuss how positive community engaged could be used to avoid violence and or how to remove themselves from violent situations. Once engaged in community programs he found that at risk youth developed a better understanding of the community programs available to seek help, while helping others in the process. He continued to focus on youth and ran basketball and cricket tournaments to provide a place to play, provided access for youth to get the necessary resources to help them in their lives and he also continued to organise youth related seminars. It was a way to bridge the gap between the police and the youth, to break down mental barriers and assumptions about police officers and to help develop positive relationships with the police force and to even encourage the youth to consider the police force as a potential career path. Through the (MVP) Most Valuable Person Basketball Academy, he offered free basketball lessons and tournaments to bring kids together to learn how to play basketball as well as leadership and team spirit skills. During these lessons and tournaments, professionals were invited to talk to the youth about their occupations as a way to broaden their horizons.
 
These days, every Tuesday, Councillor Dhillon's free drop in basketball is held at Louise Arbor Secondary School. During that time, he talks to the kids for 3-5 minutes about team work, leadership, has guest speakers to discuss various topics of and he provides a safe place for kids to have fun as well as to learn and be aware of the multiple options they can pursue once they complete high school.
 
When asked how he has benefitted from his volunteering experiences, Gurpreet shared that he learnt to understand the community and people of various socio-economic origins. And he realised that there is a common good in all of us that we all share; we all want to live well and do well. We all rely on each other whether we help each other or not. And in doing so, we affect one another. So when we help others, we improve society today as well as for future generations.
 
Gurpreet feels pride when he sees kids that he knows going to university and college because it means that he has been able to play a role in providing the same opportunities to these kids to keep them out of trouble and learn life skills as he once received while growing up in Malton. He sees it as being able to pay it forward and ensure that the torch is passed on in terms of helping others the way people have helped him along the way. Seeing kids succeed means that they have learnt what he hoped they would. When the kids do well, have fun and are successful, he knows that he has achieved his objective.
 
From his perspective, the benefits of volunteering are that you are making a difference in the life of one person or the lives of a larger group or a community as a whole. When you give your time to help and improve someone else's life, you are uplifting a person who is struggling financially or mentally. Being there for another person and expressing empathy and compassion makes a bigger impact than we realise.
 
Through his volunteering he has built lifelong relationships and made great friends which he values the most. He adds, "Volunteering is giving your time but you also get a lot out of it. It can help you make friends, help your career and give you guidance. It is selfless service. When you serve others, you are doing God's work. You are serving humanity. You could have one cent or a million dollars. But what have you done to make your neighbourhood, community or society better than it was before?" This is what he tries to teach his two sons as well as other kids. He continues, "Volunteering gives you a sense of purpose, makes you happy, makes you feel useful. In exchange, you are giving your time which is most valuable".
 
Gurpreet had two role models. The first person was Harpreet Dhariwal, who ran a basketball program when he was younger. Gurpreet turned to him for advice and he was someone who he could trust. Harpreet passed away 3 years ago of cancer but he would have been proud of Gurpreet today. The second person who impacted his life a great deal was his dad, Jarnail Dhillon. When Gurpreet was young, he often saw his dad helping strangers, which decreased his own hesitancy in helping those who need assistance. 
 
Being a volunteer makes you a role model since you lead by example. Through modelling this behaviour you not only walk the talk but you instill in others that same value. Mr. Skinner was Gurpreet's teacher from grades 6 - 8. He spent a lot of time mentoring him after school. This gave Gurpreet confidence since he was shy and timid. When he was in Grade 8, Mr.Skinner would encourage him saying, "you can do it". Gurpreet experienced firsthand how compassion, kindness and empathy have made a difference in his own life. Through volunteering and expressing these emotions you make your life better, society better and the world better. He also remembers a high school coach who taught him discipline. His coach reinforced that you need to be disciplined in all you do, whether it is standing at attention, focusing on the task at hand or accomplishing a goal, how to how and when to communicate, etc. 
 
His volunteer experiences are what ultimately led him to become a city Councillor. He wanted to make a difference in his community and he had a vision and ideas on what that should look like. His volunteering helped him to understand the constituents he serves and what is important to them. In his role as City Councillor, he is able to affect the livelihood of the residents in his ward and enrich their lives.
 
His advice to others is, "Volunteering is a no lose situation. You are bettering yourself as well as someone else. The only cost is your time which is very valuable but it is an investment in not only yourself but also in someone else. And the impact of volunteering is not only seen, it is also felt. So get involved in a small or large way. You might not get praise or recognition but volunteering is not about that. It is about doing your part. We all have a role to play sooner or later and it is never too late".
 
Doors have opened for him through his volunteering. He would not be where he is today without it.
 
-Written By Lisa Dantas, Volunteer Content Writer