Abhayjeet Singh Sachal, known as Abhay, at fifteen years of age is accomplished well beyond his years. He is one of two young people from BC who will travel with fifteen others from all across Canada to learn about and participate in the 100th Anniversary commemorations of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, a watershed event in the history of Canadian soldiers and Canada’s coming of age as a country in their hard-won victory during World War I.
“I found out about Vimy Ridge on Facebook,” said Abhay. “This past summer I participated in the Students On Ice, Arctic expedition, which involved 200 students from around the world. We visited Inuit villages and learned about the culture and the impact of climate change on the region and the people.”
The expedition travelled through Labrador, flew to Iqaluit, then sailed up the coast of Nunavut and across to Greenland.
“I was on a Facebook page with my entire group from that expedition, and I saw an ad about the Vimy Ridge Foundation,” said Abhay, “which selects Canadian students from across the country to Vimy Ridge in France to learn about what the Canadian soldiers did in the First World War. I was immediately interested because my Grandfather was a soldier and fought in many wars.
So, as the selection was based on having provided outstanding service to society by what you’ve done, I realized that I could have a shot at getting the award.”
Abhay was right. He was selected for the award which also includes a trip to France and Belgium in April.
“Because it’s Canada’s 150th anniversary, and the 100th anniversary of the Vimy Ridge Battle, there will be a big event there,” he said. “I will be learning about the First World War sites and trenches in France and Belgium and especially about the Vimy Ridge monument.”
Abhay said he’d always been interested in helping out and volunteering with other people, starting as the youngest member of an organization called Students Without Borders who raised over $10,000 to build a well in Kenya.
“When I was eleven I created a few documentaries about Senior Citizens through a film program called Reel Youth,” Abhay said. “One of the people I interviewed was a World War II veteran, and that really got me engaged because seeing this person who experienced war, hearing from him first-hand, he was 94 years old, and it was a big thing in getting me to care about other people.”
He went on to describe his activities and interest in community and broader areas.
“I’ve been volunteering with my school Environmental Club, the school Humanitarian Club, and after taking part in the Students on Ice expedition, I was opened up to so many other issues that I was unaware of,” he said. “I thought that going on the expedition I’d be learning just about climate change, but I also learned about social issues like suicide and other problems that Inuit communities are facing. That really got me interested in making a difference in that area. So right now, I’ve given a few presentations in elementary schools about the Arctic and the issues that the people who live there face, and I’m working on giving more presentations with my school’s Environmental Club. But because suicide is such a big issue, I’m also learning about how it, and anxiety affects war veterans and how all those things could be linked together.”
But this dynamo has not exhausted his list yet.
“I’m currently working on creating an organization on the concept of mental health awareness because it’s something that people don’t think of too much. I’ll be aiming it at all kinds of people. There were two hundred students on the Arctic expedition from countries around the world, as well as one hundred staff members, who were all learning the same things, so having that kind of awareness and bringing that to everyone is something that is very important for me.”
Career-wise, Abhay says he’s interested in a lot of things from science to social studies, but says that after the trip overseas, he’ll be opened up more to history “which is something that I’m already really good at so I’m keeping my options open.”
Abhay is nothing short of remarkable. He also has played Ice hockey since the age of seven, and currently is a defenseman with the Surrey Thunder Minor hockey team AND currently working on Grade 10 Royal Conservatory music. In 2013 he gave a TedexKids talk about creativity and how it can be used in everyday life, (it’s on You Tube) and when he went to high school, he started a Public Speaking Club at Seaquam.
We’ll be following-up with Abhay on his return.
The week in France, organized by the Vimy Foundation, includes classroom education and daily field trips to important First World War sites. The Canadian students will be joined by eight students from Belgium, Great Britain, France, and Germany for an international educational experience. The twenty-five winning students will attend the commemorations for the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge on April 9, 2017 at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial along with tens of thousands of other Canadians.