When Abhay went to the Arctic in 2016, he was just 15-years old. There, he witnessed the melting of ice caps first-hand, recalling being able to hear the hundreds of drops of water as they hit the ocean. He also had an opportunity to interact with Inuit youth and found that suicide rates are at a staggering 11 times the national average. The experience left a profound effect on him.
Coincidentally, his elder brother Sukhmeet volunteered at the hospital and school in Inuvik, North West Territories, for six months – that is singular because there is only one hospital and one school. He found that climate change was impacting the way that people lived in the north, as well as on their mental health. Since 2012, he has been embarking on humanitarian missions.
Together, Sukhmeet and Abhay were so moved by the plight of northerners that they joined forces and created a not-for-profit platform called Break The Divide. Their aim was to connect Inuvik students with students living in their home town of Surrey/Delta, and to be the catalyst to create change. With the aim to have Indigenous teens see life beyond their squalid environment and simultaneously to bring awareness to local youth on aboriginal teen issues, the brother duo organized their first telephone student exchange through Seaquam Secondary School. The results were positive for students on both sides and received accolades from the community at large.
The apple didn’t fall far from the tree; their father is Harpreet Singh, a community activist and television host/producer for Canada’s only daily national South Asian talk show on the Joy TV Network where, for the past 10 years, he has raised awareness of key issues faced by Canadian South Asians.
From the Government of Canada to international awards, both have received recognition from around the world. Last year, Sukhmeet won Canada’s top 25 Environmentalists Under 25 award which Abhayjeet won the previous year. Together, they plan to break down the divide (pun intended) between youth living across the globe simply through communication.
Birthplace: Amritsar, India
Came to Canada: 2002
Highest Level of Education: Sukhmeet completed his Bachelor of Science at McGill University and Master’s in Public Health at Western University with the aim to work with the aboriginal community on health issues. He is now a medical student at UBC. Abhay is heading to University of Toronto this September with the plan to pursue global health and affairs on a full-ride scholarship.
Recommended Reading: Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese. It will blow your mind.
Favourite Past-time: Abhay plays minor hockey, is an expert pianist, and loves to draw in his spare time. Sukhmeet, on the other hand, has dedicated his time to working with UBC School of Population and Public Health as a case manager.
Toughest Professional Decision:
Engagement is key in volunteerism. Both of us are dedicated to our mission but when people here don’t really understand the plight of aboriginal youth, when it’s not connected to their daily life, keeping them engaged is so hard. We are lucky to have wonderful team of supporters to help make the foundation bigger and better.
What advice would you give to other youth?
Get out of your comfort zone, and don’t let your parents’ limitations and expectations stop you from achieving your goals.
What does the future look like?
We have already expanded to a group of students living in South Africa. We hope to continue building momentum.