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Generosity of a stranger inspires student award

Chaoli Yin and her family

SAIT student Chaoli Yin says the support of a student award gave her confidence for her and her family's future. Photo courtesy Chaoli Yin.

Starting over can be difficult, but starting over in a new country is a whole other kind of challenge — one that many SAIT students, including Chaoli Yin, know too well.  

Yin came to Canada with her husband Chang Du in 2012 with the hopes of starting a new life, but the couple faced many challenges along the way, including language barriers, financial hardship, navigating parenthood and pursuing a new career.

Yin was a high school chemistry teacher in China and she’s now training to be a medical lab technician at SAIT. She is currently in her second year of the program and says that a student award she received at a time when she needed it most gave her confidence to pursue her new career.

Inspiration and confidence

“[My husband] could not find a job in his field due to the oil market, so even with the help of my student loan we could barely make ends meet,” says Yin. “I put all of my effort into studying and getting decent marks in every course. My effort was paid back through the award, which has not only helped me to solve financial problems but has also inspired me and made me more confident towards the program and my future.”

Yin received the Kunjana Rameshchandra Shah Award, a SAIT student endowment created by Calgary medical retinal specialist and comprehensive ophthalmologist, Dr. Chirag Shah.

Shah says he knows what it is like to struggle financially while studying in a new country ― now that he has found success in his career, he believes it is his responsibility to give back.

Dr. Kunjana Shah

Dr. Chirag Shah (second from right) at a SAIT donor event in Macdonald Hall.

Last year Shah donated $10,000 towards his award as part of SAIT Giving Day, a 24-hour fundraiser in support of SAIT students and an event Shah says is very close to his heart. The student endowment is now able to provide more than $2,625 in annual award funding in perpetuity for SAIT students.

“Giving is what I know from childhood and it is what my parents taught me from a young age,” says Shah. “In whichever form, whether it’s teaching, supporting someone financially, or even holding a door for someone, whatever you can do [to give back].”

The generosity of a stranger

After growing up and attending university in India, Shah came to Canada to interview for a fellowship in his field ― a pinnacle moment in his career. With little money to his name at the time, it was the generosity of a stranger that helped him the day of his interview that has inspired his own generosity.

“This lady, without hesitation, gave me her bus ticket when I didn’t want to give my $20 bill to the bus driver, [who] didn’t want to give me change,” says Shah. “That $20 was my lunch and dinner for that day. I have never forgotten her. If I would have not gotten on that bus, I would have missed my train and I wouldn’t have been on time for the interview.”

“What someone did for me … I’m just passing it on," he explains.

Paying it forward

Shah tries to pay this generosity forward by meeting with recipients of his award and encouraging them to pursue their dreams and to “somehow, somewhere, give back” to others.

“When I hear that I’ve made a difference in someone’s life, even remotely, it makes me feel like I’m doing the right thing and living my life as I should.”

Story by Carmen Cundy


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