An Abbotsford teacher who is behind the recent Equity Backpack Project at Eugene Reimer Middle School is this year’s recipient of the Betty Urquhart Community Service Award.
The award is presented annually by University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) to a group or individual who has made a significant impact on the community through their volunteer work on a specific project or with an organization.
Nerlap Sidhu is this year’s recipient for her work as a teacher, dedicated volunteer, community engager and change-maker.
Sidhu, who earned a bachelor of arts at UFV in 2004, is described as “a relentless volunteer with a strong ability to articulate the vision and need for community connection.”
Sidhu has planned and executed a series of community and school projects that include Lean on Me, We Are Canada, Character Matters, Walk of Integrity, Random Acts of Kindness, Voices of Courage, Empathy Fence, and the Antiracism Education Project.
Her latest, the Equity Backpack Project, focuses on anti-racism and has drawn attention from educators across B.C.
Another one of her projects involved the creation of a music video to the song Lean On Me as a dedication to front-line workers at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taking part in the video were seven school principals, 13 students from eight schools, 13 teachers from several schools, and local doctors, paramedics, police officers and others.
Another project she initiated, We Are Canada, encouraged individuals from small and remote communities across Canada (including Abbotsford) to share their stories of what it means to be Canadian in 2020.
The project resulted in both a web page and a short video.
Sidhu said she is inspired by a strong desire to see her students and other children succeed.
“Children are our future and setting every child up for success is at the heart of my work,” she said.
Sidhu said also important to her in all the projects she initiates is the theme of bringing people together.
She said that bringing students together from across Abbotsford, B.C. or Canada around community work allows them “to feel heard and empowered.”
“I choose activities that allow our students to see a bit of themselves in others and celebrate each other’s stories.”
Suki Grewal, who nominated Sidhu for the award, is an admirer of her dedication and passion.
“I am proud to know Nerlap and am continually inspired by her passion for learning, for community outreach, and, ultimately, for improving the life experiences of all those who are involved in these projects,” she said. “Her service has made a significant difference to the community of Abbotsford.”
Betty Urquhart was one of the first employees of the university and believed strongly in volunteering and giving back to the community.
She passed away in 1995, but UFV keeps her memory alive by honouring a person or group each year who exemplifies her commitment to life-long learning and community.