Tamanawis Secondary student Praneet Singh Arora says he has always been passionate about history, but this next week will allow him to connect to the importance of Canada’s contribution to the First World War.
Arora, who is turning 17 on Sunday (Nov. 7), is one of the recipients of the Vimy Pilgrimage Award, an educational program to study Canada’s First World War contributions.
The Vimy Foundation, according to its website, “works to preserve and promote Canada’s ongoing legacy and leadership as symbolised by the First World War victory at Vimy Ridge in April 1917, a milestone where Canada came of age and was recognised on the world stage.”
Most years, the award would include a fully funded trip to France and Belgium, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Arora will be going on a weeklong trip to Ottawa.
He said the group he’ll be with will be visiting different cemeteries, memorials, museums and Remembrance Day ceremonies “in an effort to commemorate and remember the legacy of those that served in the First World War.”
“I’ve always been passionate about history, so I’ve studied history — for my own interests — from ancient civilizations to the world wars,” Arora explained.
“I find it really interesting how small events can have such long-lasting consequences and ramifications.”
He noted that through some of the project he did with the Vimy Foundation this year, where they would focus on the life of an individual soldier, allowed him to “connect a lot more to the importance of this.”
“It makes you realize that the people that fought for us a hundred years ago … were actual people and not just some statistic from far away.
“It really drives home the fact that these were real people with real families, real hobbies, real passions, real aspirations and it makes it a lot easier to appreciate their sacrifice.”
While he won’t be able to go to France or Belgium with the foundation, Arora said he hopes to make a trip to the European countries in the future,
“I definitely would really love to visit the Vimy memorial and see the tunnels below Vimy, to visit the cemeteries and essentially make that direct connection with that being the land where these people sacrificed their lives for us.”
As for his volunteer work, Arora said he runs Tamanawis Empowered, which is a group of 150 dedicated members that work toward eradicating domestic violence and helping feed orphans in conflict zones; he’s worked with various organizations that promote diversity; he’s on the board of director for the Spelling Bee of Canada and helps to promote literacy for youth.
Arora also works with several environmental groups, including Sustainabiliteens, Ocean Wise and his school’s green team.
With his love for the environment, the Grade 12 student said he plans to pursue a double major in entrepreneurship and sustainability at post-secondary next year because he’s “always been passionate about helping people and the environment simultaneously.”