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Women in Business: Vernon MLA builds resiliency through perseverance

‘Don’t let fears hold you back and don’t let others define you,’ says Harwinder Sandhu
Vernon-Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu has experienced great loss and hardships but nothing stopped her from advocating for the voices of marginalized populations. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)

Hardships, obstacles and the unexpected couldn’t stop Vernon-Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu from her passion for helping others.

Prior to Sandhu’s win in the 2020 election, the registered nurse with more than 16 years of experience worked as a patient care coordinator at Vernon Jubilee Hospital and served as an active member of the BC Nurses’ Union.

“She has inspired me my whole life,” said daughter Manreet in her nomination.

“Not only is she a great mother who has fought through various tough situations for my siblings and me,” she said. “She has become a strong woman who is independent and strives to work towards making it so that other young women, such as myself, can realize they have every potential to be the greatest they can be.”

Born in India, Sandhu moved to Canada in 2001 and married her first husband, Sammy, who died at the age of 35 to cancer.

“Whilst raising my younger sister and I by herself… she worked as a registered nurse and never stepped away from helping those who needed it even after having experienced such a devastating life event,” Manreet said. “She inspires me because seeing her help others and witnessing how hard she works and how devoted she is sparked my interested in wanting to pursue a career in the medical field.”

Sandhu’s advocacy for empowerment and equality is one Manreet said she respects and now, in her new role as MLA, she can share that ideology and empower more women and equip them with the tools to overcome any challenge.

“It’s also very inspiring to me that even while being a woman of colour, she achieved a position and has worked extremely hard to get to where she is without ever wanting to give up despite receiving many harsh words, pessimism and discrimination from others.”

Getting to know Harwinder Sandhu

What is it that drives you in your work?

My ongoing desire and enthusiasm to help people. There is nothing more rewarding than being able to help people, especially when they need it the most. I feel so grateful and fulfilled to see the results at the end and seeing the positive impact on people’s lives with every effort I make.

We may not get the expected results at times, but sincere attempts to help others and building connections, as well as getting to know people beyond their names, are incredible.

Everyone has unique stories and experiences. This helps me to be a better person and to be more empathetic towards others.

What are you passionate about?

Bringing positive change to our community by giving back, helping marginalized people and by building bridges to unite our community, despite our differences.

Once we get to know each other, we can combat many insecurities we might have in our minds, which is often stemmed from the biases we carry in our minds about each other.

I am also committed and passionate about women’s empowerment. I do raise awareness about the inequities and violence against women worldwide.

Vernon has embraced us with open arms, so it’s my turn to give back and to serve the people in our communities.

How do you find work-life balance/ what do you do to escape?

There have been times when it often becomes challenging to find a work-life balance.

However, I learned to maximize quality time with my kids by using every precious moment I get by getting the most out of it. I like to go to the lake with kids, walking on the trails, spending time in nature reflecting on my life, goals and being grateful.

I do this after office hours. I am trying to spare at least one day on the weekend to focus on myself and my family.

Pre-pandemic I used to travel across B.C. or occasionally overseas with my family.

What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?

I grew up in a farming family — milking cows, jumping from the house roof, on top of the wheat and rice piles alongside my siblings and other kids, catching dragonflies.

It is so nice to live in the Okanagan where farming is so prevalent. Looking at the local farms brings back the best memories of my childhood.

I used to bike lots during my school years. I biked to my school, which was in a different town, a few miles away.

After moving to the boarding school, I participated and won awards in Indian folk dances and modelling.

I speak four languages.

What advice would you give young women who are interested in your field?

Don’t let any fears hold you back and don’t let others define your abilities.

Hurdles should not be the stopping point, instead, use those to make yourself stronger and resilient.

Hardships in our life help us to develop perseverance, to be a better and grateful person. When we achieve our goals by working hard and with honesty, nothing beats the joy and pride from that success.

We need young women to be in leadership roles to promote equality, to build sustainable, strong and vibrant democracies. When we are determined to pursue our goals, we are unstoppable and the sky is the limit!

READ MORE: ‘I’m truly grateful’: Vernon-Monashee MLA officially sworn in

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