City of Burnaby picks prolific volunteer for 2011 Citizen of the Year

Burnaby's 2011 Citizen of the Year, Kehar Singh Aujla, is a very busy man....


KeharSingh (307K)

Burnaby's 2011 Citizen of the Year, Kehar Singh Aujla, is a very busy man.

Aujla, who emigrated from India with his wife in 1996, began volunteering in Burnaby a decade later.

"While I was a security guard, I was trying to decide what to do after I retired," he said in a phone interview Tuesday, adding he began volunteering with the Burnaby Hospital Foundation in 2006 after he retired.

Now, Aujla volunteers for nine organizations and multiple events, as well.

It makes for a very busy schedule, but Aujla said the positive response he receives from those he works with keeps him energized.

"The people with whom I work, they appreciated my work, that was actually my incentive," he said. "All the time, I get this appreciation, so I love to get that."

Aujla volunteers nearly every day of the week at the Sikh Temple of the Khalsa Diwan Society in New Westminster; with Citizen Support Services as a shopping buddy for those who need assistance on Mondays; at the information desk at Burnaby Hospital on Wednesdays; at the Burnaby Village Museum on Thursdays, and as a volunteer grandparent for a family with three young children on Saturdays.

Their grandparents live in Toronto, Ont. and Japan, he explained.

"I have my grandchildren - here, and in England and India," Aujla said. "But at the same time I am their (this family's) grandparent, as their grandparents are not here."

Fridays he is at home, he said, to help anyone who needs him outside his regular volunteering hours.

In between, Aujla also volunteers for the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts, the Breast Cancer Foundation, and the Sikh Seva Foundation - a charitable organization that he joined a few months ago, he said.

"They want to do some volunteer work in the community and they needed someone who has got experience volunteering," Aujla explained.

Aujla is in high demand as a volunteer, so much so that one of his character references for his Burnaby Village Museum volunteer position urged them to call him right away.

"When I went there, they said I needed two references," he said, adding that he gave his bank manager as one reference.

"When they called her, you know what she said? 'Grab the person, he should not go away, otherwise you will lose. Grab the person.'"

Immediately he was selected for the interview.

He plans to keep up the pace as long as he can, he said.

Aujla was very happy about his nomination for the Kushiro Cup 2011 Citizen of the Year.

"You cannot imagine how much I am excited," he said.

Aujla was chosen by the City's Kushiro Cup Selection Committee, and the decision was passed by council at Monday night's meeting.

Coun. Anne Kang, chair of the committee, called Aujla an outstanding citizen.

"We feel he truly deserves this award for the time, energy and enthusiasm he commits to his community," she said at the meeting.

Aujla had an incredible resume and was very deserving of the award, Mayor Derek Corrigan said.

"It's always a hard choice but it sounds like this year, the choice made itself," he said.

This may be the first time the honour has gone to a recent immigrant, according to Coun. Pietro Calendino, a member of the selection committee.

"We're all very grateful he's a citizen of Burnaby," he added.

The Kushiro Cup will be presented to Aujla at the annual volunteer appreciation dinner on May 4.

Last year, seniors advocate Gloria Kravac won the award.

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