After an extraordinarily successful ten-year run in the United States, L’Oreal Paris has expanded the Women of Worth program to include a Canadian edition. In the program’s inaugural year, Points of Light and L’Oreal Paris Canada recognized and celebrated ten women who selflessly volunteered their time to serve others throughout their local communities, their provinces or, even, across Canada. For exceptional commitment to service, each honoree received $10,000 to donate to a charitable organization of her choice, and a national honoree received an additional $10,000 grant.
As the daughter of Sri Lankan immigrants who grew up during the Civil War in the 1980s, Abirami Kirubarajan is sensitive to the needs of refugees trying to make their way in a new world. Spurred to make a difference in the lives of fellow immigrants, she started volunteering as a teen at the Peel Multicultural Council in Mississauga, a city located in the Canadian province of Ontario.
“I immediately saw a huge gap with the young people coming to us,” she says. “I’d see young immigrants and refugees feeling a real clash between their parents’ identity, their own previous culture and the reality of living in Canada and speaking a different language.” Abi proposed starting a youth-led peer support group now known as Multicultural Youth CAN (MYC).
This youth-led peer support group connects 13 to 23-year-olds to services, community and their new culture. The chance to be among peers and access tutoring, English conversation circles, conferences, job search, and art therapy sessions has aided some 700 youth in their transition to Canada so far. She created a safe and welcoming physical and emotional space for these young people at a time when they needed it the most. She helps to fill the overwhelming gap between young immigrants and refugees feeling a real clash with their parents’ identity, their own previous culture, and the reality of living in Canada and speaking a different language.
Passionate about the mission, Abi, who is a dual U.S. citizen, has led the charge of that youth group, implementing programs and events, coordinating volunteer efforts and forging new ground with partner organizations, all the while going to school full time, maintaining a 4.0 GPA, running two other youth organizations and working part time.