COLUMN: Community leaders make Surrey a better place to live

A city like Surrey, which is fast-growing, diverse and in a constant state of change, needs good leaders.

Last week’s recognition of some of these leaders, through the Surrey Now-Leader’s Community Leader Awards and the Surrey Board of Trade’s Business Excellence Awards, is an important step in helping Surrey residents to get a better sense of the work many are undertaking. The goal of all of these leaders, businesses and community, is to make Surrey a better place as it continues to grow, and one day takes its place as B.C.’s largest city.

At the top of the CLA list is longtime Surrey Board of Education trustee Laurae McNally, who has served for more than 30 years on the board. On Tuesday (Nov. 12), she was named Leader of the Year and also won the Above and Beyond award. She has, from her very start as a trustee, pushed hard for there to be enough space for Surrey’s ever-growing school population, insisted on the very best leadership of the school district and connected with thousands of students – including one who came up to her at the awards ceremony and thanked her for visiting her school. She will be stepping away from the board at the end of her latest term. That will mark 38 years as a trustee.

Also getting recognition twice was Anita Huberman, longtime CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade. She was runner-up in the Leader of the Year category and winner in the Community Builder category. She is a relentless champion of not only Surrey’s business community, but of many other aspects of community life. She describes herself as a “city-builder.” Among her many tasks each year is organizing the BEAs.

Charan Sethi, president of the Tien Sher Group of Companies, was named Surrey’s Business Person of the Year at the BEA event last Wednesday (Nov. 13). In addition to a wide range of activity in the development industry, he has been instrumental in ensuring that the history of Whalley is recognized through an historic district, and that arts and culture play an important role in Surrey’s growth.

One of the great things about both series of awards is the recognition given to young leaders. The BEA Award for young entrepreneur went to Hassib Sarwari of Afghan Kitchen in South Surrey. His goal was to have 10 staff within two years – in that time his business has grown to 30 and he is hoping it will expand to 50. New business of the year went to Arcade Party Truck, owned by Hari Gill. His mobile video-arcade business, a fixture at many major events in Surrey, is committed to employing youth from all over Surrey.

At the CLA event, 23-year-old Shawna Narayan was named youth volunteer of the year. She began the charity Empower the Future to connect inner-city students with post-secondary students in 2016., and it has already helped more than 1,000 students through mentoring Runner-up was Fraser Heights Secondary student Fawzan Hussain, who has volunteered in numerous capacities. One of his innovative projects is providing learning assistance tools through use of a 3D printer.

Rochelle Prasad, 20, was runner-up in the Community Builder category. She has started a non-profit called Camp We Foundation, which provides “life education” to Grades 3-12 students, providing information on such diverse topics as entrepreneurship, doing taxes and climate change. To date, more than 9,000 students have take in part in the programs offered. She was inspired to begin this work after a trip she made with Free the Children to Ecuador in 2015.

Other CLA award winners were Debora Mackenzie (Coach of the Year); Annie Ohana (Teacher of the Year); Shara Nixon (Service Organization Volunteer); Atish Ram (Volunteer of the Year); Bob Gardner (Environmental Leader) and Todd Schierling (Emergency Services).

Other BEA winners were Cloverdale Paint, business excellence (over 40 employees), Zenterra Developments (11-40 employees) and Beta Collective (1-10 employees). Not-for-profit award went to Kids Play Youth Foundation and Corporate Social Responsibility went to Safer Schools Together.

All these leaders are making Surrey, and the broader world, a better place. Thanks to all of them, and all the other winners at both awards events, for their significant contributions.

Frank Bucholtz writes Wednesdays for Peace Arch News, as well as at

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