It takes grit to pack one suitcase and leave behind your family and everything familiar to you – your mother’s home cooking, hot wind on your skin, the way the sunlight catches the grass, the spicy smells emanating from the dim shadows of the local shops – to move to a foreign country. 

Sukhi Sandhu was 16 when she followed her aunt to Vancouver, Canada, from Punjab, India. Now in her fifties, Sukhi beams with joy.

“My aunt gave me a golden spoon,” she says. 

Reflecting on her first years in Canada as a young immigrant woman, Sukhi admits it was strange and different. She learned a new language while working in a poultry factory, cutting up and packaging chicken. Her aunt and uncle arranged her marriage, and Sukhi wed her loving Nirmal. Together they built a life in “beautiful Canada, free to go wherever you want to,” says Sukhi. They raised three children, two daughters and a son – a doctor, a teacher and a physiotherapist. 

“My friend Lucki, a social worker at a hospital, taught me about giving back,” says Sukhi. “Our sons were at school together, and she and I chatted beside the sports field; she educated my children and me about how to become part of the social fabric of my community through volunteering. We got involved in many different activities, my daughters wrapped gifts at Christmas for cancer donations, and my son played in charity-driven hockey events. It was our way of saying thank you for the life and opportunities we have been given as Canadians.”

In 2004 Sukhi joined Langley Memorial Hospital as an Operating Room (OR) housekeeper, where she met her best friend Kamaljeet and the inspirational surgeon Dr. Elaine Mah, an obstetrician who focuses on the more complex cases in the Ob/Gyn area. 

“On her birthday, Dr. Mah invites the OR staff to a restaurant dinner. She asks us not to bring birthday gifts but to rather donate to the Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation (LMHF). I loved this idea, and now, on my children’s birthdays, I give a gift to LMHF as I do on the birthday of Guru Nanak in November.”

Sukhi gives more than money to LMHF. She gives her time, making herself available to the Foundation to pick up items donated to the annual gala’s silent auction. Her favourite volunteer activity is teaming up with her best friend Kamaljeet to sell 50/50 tickets at the gala. 

“I work in Langley, two of my grandchildren were born at Langley Memorial, and I met my best buddy working at the hospital,” she laughs.

Sukhi’s love for life is a testament to a woman of strength, courage and irrepressible joy. “We are quite a big family now,” she says, “here in Canada. I no longer miss home.”