Earthquake shakes youth into action

Volunteering and Beyond in 2014 | Photo courtesy of Youth Transforming Society

Volunteering and Beyond in 2014 | Photo courtesy of Youth Transforming Society

The 2010 Haiti earthquake devastated that country’s economy – many urban areas were destroyed and over one million citizens were left homeless. After seeing the devastation on television and social media, four high school friends wanted to help by collecting bottles to raise funds for relief efforts.

Today, Youth Transforming Society (YTS) continues its volunteering efforts with food drives, breakfast preparation and volunteer promotion. The four founding friends have each been honoured by the Surrey Board of Trade’s Top 25 Under 25 for their efforts to raise awareness of global issues and encourage community volunteerism.

“It’s always nice to be a part of positive change,” says Amanbir Atwal, YTS co-founder and 2015 recipient of a Top 25 Under 25 Award this past May.

“You can accomplish a lot by simply giving your time. If you’re ever looking to get involved, I would encourage others to take that first step.”

A call to action

Atwal, along with Kiran Mann, Livleen Pannu and Amneet Athwal, started the society in 2010, following the Haitian earthquake. But even before then, the four friends had been keen on volunteering and helping out in the community at a young age.

“All four of us were involved in volunteering with various organizations and charities,” says Mann. “The next step from there was leadership, and the Haiti earthquake gave us a reason to come together and take that step of being leaders, putting on a fundraiser and taking the initiative.”

Their first project was a bottle drive in March 2010 for which they collected bottles over the spring break to raise $1,000 for Haitian relief. The experience proved to be worthwhile and fulfilling for the team.

“It was just a thousand dollars, but it was a really big deal for us, it being our first fundraiser,” says Mann. “Even back then, we didn’t think we would reach a thousand.”

“We were pleasantly surprised,” adds Atwal. “We had a lot of fun doing it. We just wanted to keep going and not stop there.”

Some of their other drives have included a holiday breakfast for the homeless, handmade flowers for Mother’s Day and monthly street cleanups. Most recently, they had a donut sale to raise funds for the Nepal earthquake relief efforts, and on July 11 and 12 they will be holding a door-to-door food drive, with the proceeds to go to the Surrey Food Bank.

Fostering volunteerism

Kiran Mann (left) and Amanbir Atwal, two of the four founders  of Youth Transforming Society. | Photo by Simon Yee

Kiran Mann (left) and Amanbir Atwal, two of the four founders
of Youth Transforming Society. | Photo by Simon Yee

In addition to their fundraising, they are proud of their efforts to foster volunteerism among fellow youth. Last October, they organized Volunteering and Beyond, a fair that brought over 50 organizations of various sizes and causes such as the environment, sports and academics, together to promote their volunteer opportunities to local youth. YTS says over 400 young people turned out at the event to learn how they could contribute.

“We had a lot of positive feedback from the people who came out as well as from the local businesses, politicians and media that came out to support us. A lot of people found out about us and we were able to grow with new volunteers,”
says Atwal.

Buoyed by their success, and supported by their families, peers and community, YTS was able to expand and attract new volunteers to help brainstorm, organize and run the various projects over the past few years. They hope their experiences can inspire others to heed the call of volunteering for a good cause.

“YTS has become such a big part of our lives, it’s something that we hold close to us. We would love it if someone else would be able to experience [a similar journey of volunteerism],” says Atwal.

To learn more about their initiatives, drives, and volunteer programs, visit their website,