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Meet All The 2019 DARPAN Award Winners

Darpan News Desk Darpan, 13 Sep, 2019
  • Meet All The 2019 DARPAN Award Winners



Dr. Sakena Yacoobi is the founder and executive director of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), the Professor Sakena Yacoobi Private Hospital in Herat, the Professor Sakena Yacoobi Private High Schools in Kabul and Herat, Afghanistan, and the radio station Meraj in Herat Province. She is also the co-founder and Vice-President of Creating Hope International, a Michigan-based non-profit organization.

Dr. Yacoobi founded AIL in 1995 to provide teacher training to Afghan women, to support education for boys and girls, and to provide health education to women and children. Under Dr. Yacoobi’s leadership, AIL has established itself as a groundbreaking, visionary organization which works at the grassroots level.



The organization empowers women and communities to find ways to bring education and health services to rural and urban poor girls, women and other disenfranchised and poor Afghans. AIL was the first organization to offer human rights and leadership training to Afghan women. AIL supported 80 underground home schools for 3,000 girls in Afghanistan after the Taliban closed girls’ schools in the 1990s.

Using their grassroots strategies and holistic approach, AIL now serves hundreds of thousands of women and children each year through its training programs, learning centers, schools and clinics in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since 1996, 16 million Afghans have benefited from AIL’s programs.

Dr. Yacoobi has received international recognition for AIL and its achievements. Dr. Yacoobi was among the 1,000 women jointly nominated to receive the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize.

She has received the Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy; the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship; the Americans for UNFPA Board of Advocates Award for the Health and Dignity of Women; the Asia Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the Schwab foundation; Afghan National Peace Award, among many others.

Dr. Yacoobi has also been a panelist, TEDWomen speaker, and an advocate for education of women and children at a number of international conferences.





Yuvraj Singh Dhesi is a former WWE Champion and a WWE United States Champion. He joined WWE in 2010, and became the 50th WWE Champion and the first WWE Superstar of Indian descent to win the WWE Championship.

Mahal returned to WWE two years later with a dramatically improved physique and received a push following WrestleMania 33, culminating in a win over Randy Orton at Backlash in May 2017 for the WWE Championship.

He later won the WWE United States Championship at the 34th edition of WWE's flagship pay-per-view event, WrestleMania, in April 2018. He received the “Heroes Behind The Heroes” award from Sony YAY! in October 2018.




Steve Rai is the Deputy Chief Constable (DCC) at Vancouver Police Department. DCC Rai has been a member of the Vancouver Police Department since 1990.

Deputy Rai started his career by garnering extensive operational experience, including eight years as a patrol constable in District Three, where his patrol duties encompassed field training and mentoring new police officers. He also drew on his cultural background to work extensively, at the street level, with the District’s Indo-Canadian community.

Deputy Rai completed assignments in the Vancouver Police Jail, as a Recruiting Unit Investigator, and a secondment to the former Coordinated Law Enforcement Unit.
He completed a second operational tour in District One, including managing the Davie Street Community Policing Office, where he collaborated with local community leaders, business owners and volunteers to address neighbourhood crime and order issues.

In addition to his regular duties, Deputy Rai completed a number of concurrent assignments, including 10 years as an Emergency Response Team Hostage Negotiator, six years with the VPD’s Critical Incident Stress Team, and three years with the Forensic Interview Team utilizing his Punjabi second language skills.

Deputy Rai was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in 2003 and returned to District Three as an operational supervisor.

In 2004, he was transferred to the position of Sergeant-in-charge of the Vancouver Police Department’s Recruiting Unit. Upon the completion of his tenure in the Recruiting Unit, Deputy Rai was re-deployed as an operational Sergeant in charge of a District Two patrol team. He was promoted to the position of Inspector in the Human Resources Section following this assignment. He returned to District Three in February 2012.

Deputy Rai became Superintendent, Personnel Services, in July 2014, in charge of the Human Resources Section, Recruiting and Training Section, and the Professional Standards Section. In July 2015, he was promoted to Deputy Chief Constable of Support Services.

Deputy Rai is a Board member and Director-at-Large of the Vancouver Police Historical Society and Centennial Museum, and former committee member of the Aboriginal Employment Police Initiative.

In 2006, he was the only Canadian police applicant to be selected for the US State Department’s International Leadership Development Program, which brought together police leaders from across the world. Deputy Rai is the recipient of a Chief Constable’s Commendation for “courage and professionalism,” and two Chief Constable Unit Citations.

In 2013, he was the recipient of the Khalsa Diwan Society Exemplary Community Service Award.





Balraj Mann is the founder and Chairman of Vancouver-based BM Group of Companies. He started his career in the fields of construction materials engineering and construction management.

After successfully managing and expanding the operations of several large engineering and construction companies for over three decades, Mann used his expertise to strategically acquire elite established brands to provide a one-stop solution -- Global Construction Solutions - for construction and restoration of infrastructure.

Mann has over 35 years of experience in the field of project management, construction and quality assurance. He has extensive experience in multiple residential housing development and construction, and in the evaluation, maintenance and rehabilitation of deteriorating parking structures and bridge decks.

At present, the BM Group has expanded its operations to others parts of Canada, USA and South Asia. BM Group of Companies boasts of a diverse portfolio of structural restoration, waterproofing, construction management, materials supply and real estate-related businesses. Some of the BM Group’s companies include Actes Environmental Ltd., BMG Investments Inc. (USA), Insituform Pipe Rehabilitation Private Limited (India) and Polycrete Restorations India Private Limited (India), among others.

Mann’s field experience includes construction, inspection and quality management of new building construction, road works, airfield pavements, bridges, dams, rehabilitation projects, building envelope, condition surveys and investigations and contract management.

He has completed Quality Management System (QMS) Lead Auditor Training Program for ISO 9001:2001 sponsored by QMI, and participated in several quality audits. Mann has successfully set up and managed several business operations related to construction management and consulting engineering. He has actively participated in many financial management seminars and has developed innovative systems to monitor cost control and promote production efficiency.

Over the past 15 years, he has provided project management services for several land development, new building construction, concrete restoration and waterproofing projects. His experience also includes construction management of road works and building restoration projects. He has provided neighborhood character studies and designed guideline control for several sub divisions. He has managed, designed and built over a 1,000 housing units.





Sandeep Johal is a Canadian visual artist. Her colourful geometric forms and intricate black-and-white line work is aesthetically and conceptually inspired by her South Asian heritage.

Sandeep believes in the power of art to create awareness around issues related to cultural identity, gender equality, and human rights. Her art practice is an expression of her social and cultural concerns, particularly gender justice.

Her most recent series, She Left Only To Come Back (2019) is an exploration of femininity, motherhood, inter-generational trauma and loss set against a backdrop of familial obligation and self-sacrifice.

Sandeep has completed a number of public projects, most recently, a community mural project with Vancouver Mural Festival that involved the denaming of a federal building, and murals commissioned by the Vancouver Art Gallery in conjunction with Moving Still: Performative Photography In India.
Her work has been featured in CBC Arts, Vancouver’s CTV Morning Live, the Vancouver Sun, The Georgia Straight, Gray Magazine and numerous other print and online publications.






Dave Mann is the President and Founder of Isle of Mann Property Group. Mann founded the Mannkind Charitable Society (MCS), in 2009, to promote the welfare of orphaned children, provide free food to the needy both locally and abroad, and to foster green initiatives.

Mannkind works in partnership with other registered charities to advance music and arts education, help the poor and increase environmental awareness by expanding green spaces in cities.

MCS is involved in many philanthropic projects; some of which include providing free surgical procedures to children with physical disabilities or deformities in India, helping the environment by planting trees in developing nations and in BC parks, helping orphans within impoverished parts of developing nations and providing free food to the homeless residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The organization works in conjunction with Costco and every weekend MCS provides about $2,000 worth of grocery to various homeless shelters.

Through Kidscan, Mannkind operates a 14-bed paediatric palliative care center in New Delhi, India, which supports children with cancer who cannot afford a regular hospital for palliative care.

The Kidscan palliative center provides grief counselling to families, and entertainment and activities for the children. MCS has funded and operates orphanage facilities within the Balagurukulam Orphanage located in Chennai, India.






Udaybir Singh Walia is a 17-year-old cricket player who has been a part of BC Cricket Teams for the last four years. India’s World Cup victory in 2011 inspired him to take up cricket.

Since 2018, he has been playing for the U-19 Canadian National Cricket Team and for the Newton Surrey Elite team. In June 2019, the Newton Surrey Elite team won the champion’s title and $20,000 in Big Bash – a premium cricket competition in western Canada.

Walia was the Most Valuable Player for the tournament. In July, his U-19 Canadian team won the qualifiers for playing in the U-19 Cricket World Cup scheduled for January 2020 in South Africa. Walia wants to see Canada recognized as one of the best cricket playing nations in the world.





Dr. Naranjan Dhalla is a distinguished Professor at the Max Rady College of Medicine, University of Manitoba. He served for 19 years as Founding Director of the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at the St. Boniface Hospital, Winnipeg.

He has been working in the field of experimental cardiology with a focus on pathophysiology and pharmacology of cardiac dysfunction. He was one of the first investigators to identify membrane defects during the development of heart disease.

He has published 819 full-length papers, which have been cited more than 26,000 times, in addition to editing 56 books, and training 163 fellows and graduate students in biochemical and molecular medicine.

As Secretary General and then President from 1972 to 1996, he developed the International Society for Heart Research for promoting cardiovascular research. He has been the Executive Director of the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences, which he founded in 1996 for promoting cardiovascular education and prevention of heart disease.

In 2016, he was elected as its Honorary Life President. For the past 31 years, he has been Editor-in-Chief of an international journal Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry. Dr. Dhalla has received 197 honours and awards, including six honorary doctorate degrees and four Honoris Causa Professorships from different Institutions. He has been invited to give 519 talks at various conferences and institutions around the globe.

He is Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Member of the Order of Canada, Member of the Order of Manitoba and Inductee into the Winnipeg Citizens Hall of Fame. He has been named for induction into the 2019 Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.





The Shan-E-Punjab Arts Club was founded in 2008 by a group of passionate bhangra and giddha devotees, all of whom have countless years of practice and knowledge under their belt.

The joint passion of culture, heritage and musical art came together to create this flourishing academy. Shan-E-Punjab is one of the top bhangra and giddha academies in North America. They have performed at competitions in Los Angeles, Boston, Detroit, Calgary, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Phoenix, etc.

The Club is a space where the students receive technical and energetic instruction, positive reinforcement, personal attention and quality mentorship. The academy helps its students build confidence, learn key life skills and nurture lifelong friendships.

The academy seeks to preserve and promote the folk dances of Punjab in North America through performance, education and community outreach. They are committed to encouraging and nurturing an appreciation and love for dances in every folk dance enthusiast.





Joban Bal is a first year medical student at UBC and the President and Founder of One Blood For Life Foundation, a blood and stem cell donation organization.

The entire team of One Blood For Life Foundation is a phenomenal group of youth, along with advisors that include the top executives at Canadian Blood Services, researchers at UBC, doctors and nurses at many of the hospitals in the region, and the community of Canadians that he started the organization to help strengthen.

The Foundation currently has over 400 active volunteers across BC, primarily in the Lower Mainland region. The team has recruited over 1,550 new stem cell donors to the Canadian Stem cell registry and over 3,400 blood donation, mostly youth.

Bal was awarded the Top 25 Under 25 in 2017, and was awarded a national service award at the Honouring Our Lifeblood event in Ottawa the same year. The One Blood For Life Foundation was nominated to represent BC and Yukon, as the top organization for its contributions to the Canadian Blood System and International Stem cell registries in Ottawa in 2018.

Bal has been awarded numerous academic and leadership awards at UBC such as the trek excellence scholarship; Dean of Science scholarship; and BC Children’s Hospital Research Award for his research contributions with the BC Children’s Hospital.

Bal is a Wesbrook Scholar at UBC, the university’s most prestigious designation awarded to 20 of the university’s most promising future leaders out of nearly 40,000 candidates, an HSBC Emerging Leader Premier Award Recipient, a medical researcher at St. Paul’s Hospital, and UBC MD Candidate for 2023.





This year is special for DARPAN Awards as not only is it the 10th Anniversary of the event but it marks 10 successful years honouring and encouraging the contributions of the South Asian community.


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