Surrey’s Progressive Intercultural Community Services (PICS) Society has quickly moved to honour the work and legacy of Charanpal (Charan) Gill, founder and former CEO of the non-profit.
A wing of Gill’s “dream project,” Guru Nanak Diversity Village in Cloverdale, will bear the name of the community worker and social activist, who died Tuesday (Feb. 2) at Langley Memorial Hospital following a battle with cancer. He was 84.
“Lest we forget a legend,” PICS stated. “Mr. Gill was a great human being imbued with extraordinary qualities of head and heart and it was his vision and able leadership that became a driving force behind PICS Society. His tireless efforts made PICS develop into a major community organization in the Lower Mainland offering multiple programs and services to the community, including language and settlement services, employment programs, housing for seniors, second stage transition home for immigrant women, training, and programs for women and youth.”
Guru Nanak Diversity Village will be a “revolutionary” facility located near the corner of 64th Avenue and 176th Street. The 125-bed project aims to give seniors “culturally sensitive care services” in a three-storey structure.
“We also urge the community to help turn into reality Mr. Gill’s dream project, Guru Nanak Diversity Village, by supporting PICS in realizing the target to fundraise the initial $5 million to launch it,” PICS stated. “This initiative, envisioned by Mr. Gill as a futuristic community need, will be another milestone in PICS’s endeavour to ensure that our seniors are able to receive Long-Term Complex Care in a culturally sensitive environment.”
PICS will also honour Gill with a plaque at the organization’s head office in Newton, will commemorate him with awards during fundraising galas and also create “a virtual memorial” for him online at pics.bc.ca.
In addition to his days with PICS since the organization was launched in 1987, the Hong Kong-born Gill earned several awards as a co-founder of the Canadian Farm Workers Union and the British Columbia Organization to Fight Racism, among other community work he did for seniors, immigrants, youth and the working poor.
Gill is survived by his three children and their spouses Jack Gill and Amrit, Paul Gill and Sarbjit, Rani Gill and Peter; his grandchildren Sean, Brandon, Alicia, Jovin, Arjun; great grandchild Robin, and his extended family in BC as well as in the U.K., Hong Kong and India.
A family funeral, limited due to COVID-19, will be held at Riverside Funeral Home in Delta. A Celebration of Life for Charan Gill will be held at a later date, the family says.
Meantime, SurreyCares Community Foundation has given an Emergency Community Support Fund grant of $32,883 to PICS in support of Harmony House, a transition house for immigrant women and children fleeing domestic violence.
The funding aims to address the impact of social isolation, exacerbated by the pandemic, for such women. “To decrease social isolation with residents at Harmony House, this funding will be used towards hiring two additional staff, delivering in-house wellbeing programs and delivering wellbeing tools/supplies,” according to a SurreyCares news release.
COVID-19 has caused a surge in domestic violence, and in Surrey, an increase in the number of immigrant women needing to flee dangerous situations, say operators of Harmony House. “Immigrant women who flee a violent or entrapment situation at home do so against all cultural norms. It’s a frightening, difficult, and stressful time,” says the SurreyCares release.
“These women are discouraged to leave and receive little support from their community – their choice is to either run away from everything they know or stay and continue to be abused,” said Manpreet Gill, PICS’ assistant program co-ordinator. “Most leave because they fear for their safety and that of their children. Once they leave, these women end up feeling alone and isolated because they have lost their support networks. Now this already insurmountable social isolation has been exacerbated by the mandated isolation policies due to the pandemic.”