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It’s a matter of life or death: How a teen volunteer created a school club that can save lives

Written by: Serena Li

Date: February 9, 2022

Imagine this:

It’s a regular Friday evening. You are a 15-year-old student who has decided to treat yourself to some food at the mall. You briskly walk to the food court and get in line for some tacos. You’re impatiently waiting, rocking on the balls of your feet when suddenly, a loud yell pierces through the white noise and you hear, “Help! Help!”

You turn towards the noise and see a teenager shrieking, scrambling to look for something in a backpack. There’s another teenager who is holding on to a bench, bent over, coughing so hard that he is wheezing between coughs. His face is red and blotchy with hives, and starting to swell.

You’re scared, but concerned and think you can help so you briskly walk over. “What’s wrong?” you ask, trying to keep your voice calm. The teenager with the backpack finally pulls out what they were looking for. You recognize it right away: an epi-pen. The teenager explains with a shaking voice, “I forgot he was allergic to soy! I gave him some vegetarian bacon and I didn’t know it had soy in it. He needs this thing but I don’t know how to use it!” They thrust the epi-pen into your hands.

Do you know what to do?

You do. You do because you are a part of the medical club at your high school. You participated in an epi-pen training workshop and learned how to use the treatment during an anaphylaxis emergency. You yell out to the panicking girl to call 911 and tell the boy that you can help. “Blue to the sky, orange to the thigh,” you remind yourself as you get the epi-pen ready.


Meet #EverydayHero Harnoor:

Harnoor Dhaliwal is a 15-year-old girl who is the proud founder and club leader of the medical club at a private secondary school in Surrey, BC. As an aspiring doctor, she developed the club as a space to support and guide students interested in going into the medical field, like herself. The club aims to create learning opportunities that demonstrate the journey to medicine. It provides an inside view of what different types of healthcare professionals do. Some events the club organizes are: hosting science conferences, facilitating discussions on important issues in medicine, and teaching students life-saving skills they can use during emergencies. Being so young however, you might wonder how she ever set her sights on such an interesting volunteer opportunity.

“Doesn’t Canada have universal health care that is free?” a curious Harnoor Dhaliwal, then 13 years old, asked her parents who were watching the news with her. On the television was a solemn story about a local Surrey, BC family who was trying to raise enough funds to provide their one year old son with crucial, life-saving treatment for a rare genetic disease. Though confused with questions on how the medical system worked in Canada, Harnoor continued to watch the news tell stories about the community coming together to help the family out. Youth around the same age as her were shown on the screen volunteering selflessly to try and make a difference for this single family. Seeing peers her own age, already trying to make a positive impact in the world, became the catalyst for Harnoor to seek out volunteer opportunities for the first time, and what better cause to support than a cause she was both unfamiliar with and intrigued by?

Harnoor started looking around for ways to support her community in a way that also aligned with her interest in medicine. As she looked for placements with local organizations, she also began designing her own opportunity– one that was perfect for her as a high school student. The medical club she created at the beginning of grade 9 is now the most active club with the greatest number of members at her school. It is supervised by one of her teachers, an American certified doctor, and has received praise from the school principal.

For Harnoor, volunteering easily found its way into her heart. She says confidently, “The power of [volunteering] is huge. And I feel that as humans, it’s one of the greatest things we can take part in, so I think that everyone should volunteer.” With all the new leadership and project management skills Harnoor gained from running

her own club, she is now also a volunteer at several non-profit organizations across the Lower Mainland, including Youth Rising Foundation, Hearts of BC, and the BC Children’s Hospital Youth Committee. She says, “volunteering changed my mindset positively by helping me change my fixed mindset to a growth minds– which is still in progress.” Perhaps most importantly, Harnoor excitedly shares, “I am motivated by the endless possibilities around me, and I am also excited by new challenges and opportunities to learn and grow from.”

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