Adopt-A-School: Nanaimo-Ladysmith alternative education program gets a helping hand

Adopt-A-School: Nanaimo-Ladysmith alternative education program gets a helping hand

Entrepreneur Barj Dhahan has a long history of helping students

Vancouver businessman Barj Dhahan was moved when he recently read a Nanaimo principal’s comment that he regarded every child in his school district as his own.

“What he was saying touched me. He is, of course, right. All the kids in this province are our children. That is how we have to see them.

“And that’s the reason why no child should be coming to school hungry without breakfast or without proper clothing,” said Dhahan, who has supported The Sun’s Adopt-A-School campaign since it began in 2011.

“So I’m grateful to The Vancouver Sun for highlighting this issue and for inspiring readers to share in helping these children and their families.”

The comment Dhahan referenced was made Dec. 22 by Brett Hancock, the principal of the Nanaimo-Ladysmith alternative education program, in a story concerning the help he needs to feed and clothe some of the 300 students under his care.

Hancock estimated that 200 of those students — aged between 13 and 19 — were coming in hungry every day and in need of food for breakfast and lunch. Some also needed clothes. He applied to the AAS program for $10,000 in aid.

Dhahan — the founder and chief executive of The Sandhurst Group of Companies — who was born in India but raised in Port Alberni. He has committed to helping Hancock’s program for the next three years.

“I grew up in Port Alberni and have many memories of driving to Nanaimo so I am glad of the opportunity to do something. I intend to go over and see the principal,” he said.

Dhahan has a legacy of helping others. His philanthropy here and in India, where he funds a school for poor families, is too numerous to detail.

However, among other things he gave $400,000 in 2016 to fund scholarships for 20 Indigenous students entering the University of British Columbia. The money is to support them during their four years of studies.

“For me I don’t see it as helping. I see it as an opportunity to share in someone’s life. And if we can touch one life we have touched all of humanity.

“I’m a father and a grandfather and I can see the challenges that many families have and I’m in no position to pass judgment on anyone.

“But that principal spoke the truth about children. It really hit me what he said.”

The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund which administers AAS has (not counting this year) distributed more than $4.7 million to hundreds of schools to help teachers feed and clothe children suffering from poverty.

This year schools are asking for almost $1 million in assistance.

By Gerry Bellett (

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