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Early life shaped Ravi’s volunteer spirit

 The list of groups, organizations and committees that Bela Ravi has lent her talents to is a long one, and the time and dedication she puts into her volunteer efforts is extensive.
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Bela Ravi’s volunteer efforts were recently recognized by the Rotary Club of Sudbury when she was presented with a Paul Harris Fellowship award. Photo by Jenny Jelen.

 The list of groups, organizations and committees that Bela Ravi has lent her talents to is a long one, and the time and dedication she puts into her volunteer efforts is extensive.

Looking at the list of those organizations that have benefitted from her volunteerism, a picture emerges of a community-minded woman who has channelled her interest in the arts, in new Canadians, and into helping her community in general.

The roots of that community-mindedness goes right back to her childhood, Ravi said.

Ravi came to Canada with her family in the early 1970s “when there were significant racial problems, name-calling, all that kind of stuff.”

“Not much fun, but we learn from it,” Ravi said.

Bela Ravi’s volunteer efforts were recently recognized by the Rotary Club of Sudbury when she was presented with a Paul Harris Fellowship award. Photo by Jenny Jelen.

Bela Ravi’s volunteer efforts were recently recognized by the Rotary Club of Sudbury when she was presented with a Paul Harris Fellowship award. Photo by Jenny Jelen.

At the time, life in Canada for the child of an immigrant family was difficult, not just racially, but culturally. For her family, the culture was new, the way of life was new, and the language was new, she said.

“That was really a tough time,” Ravi said. “I just felt isolated.”

Her memories from those years run the gamut from fond to sad, she said, but the experiences “made me what I am today.”

Eventually, Canada became her home, both physically and emotionally. Although she no longer feels isolated, she said there is a peculiarity to being an immigrant that only another immigrant can understand.

“When you come as a immigrant, you go back there (to the land of your birth) and you don’t belong,” she said. “Sometimes I feel I really do belong here? Do I really belong there? So, I kind of find myself in the middle somewhere.”

Being community-minded and caring for people transcends culture, however, and Ravi is grateful, she said, for the values her parents taught her. It is in these values that the genesis of her community work can be found.

“All of that, I know because my parents instilled it in me,” she explained. “The values of respect for elders, respect for people of authority, for the teacher.”

But there is one lesson in particular that stands out, and that lesson was passed onto her by Ravi’s mother, who taught her “you have to treat everybody with dignity, no matter who it is.”

All of those experiences and lessons made her want to be more involved in her community, she said, for all sorts of reasons — to help her fellow citizens, to offer aid to those in need, to provide a voice for artistic expression. But, the most important reason is really quite simple.

“I am involved because I enjoy it.”
 

Posted by Laurel Myers