A special satisfaction comes from helping others, and this is what Karun Thanjavur felt when he presented his idea of organizing hiking trips for youth clients in ICA’s Meet-up Program. But it wasn’t the first time Thanjavur experienced the rewards that come from offering his time to help others.
Thanjavur’s life took a dramatic turn when he decided to leave his profession as a marine engineer in India to pursue teaching new skills to underprivileged youth in remote parts of Zambia, Africa. From there, he pursued a master’s degree in engineering, then moved to Canada to work on projects related to engineering.
“I studied robotics and taught at a university in Montreal,” says Thanjavur.
Now, surrounded by books on physics and astronomy in his University of Victoria office, he recounts his days in Africa teaching basic mechanics to rural youth.
“I was teaching youth who only studied until eighth grade,” he says, explaining that the program aimed to help students develop practical skills so they could find jobs as mechanics. “There were only 12 students at this school, and we taught them to fix bicycles and other aspects of mechanics.”
Later, he moved to Hawaii, where he worked for three years working at an observatory that houses one of the world’s largest optical and infrared telescopes. Thanjavur then came back to Canada and began working as a lab instructor at UVic’s observatory. Friends at UVic introduced him to mountaineering and backcountry hiking, opening up a new passion for nature and the outdoors.
“I became a member of the Alpine Club of Vancouver Island and decided to share this passion with the community,“ he says.
With the help of Gita John-Iyam, Youth and Family Services Coordinator at ICA and her staff, Thanjavur organized the first hike to Mount Douglas. It was a success. He and the youth team planned a more ambitious trip to go snowshoeing at Mount Washington, where they would be able to get a true Canadian winter experience. Many of the participants had never even seen snow, let alone been on snowshoes. Several volunteers supported the group, and everyone had a fantastic time in perfect late winter conditions.
Recollecting the Mount Washington trip, Thanjavur says, “I was so delighted just to be out in the snow, sharing the beauty of it together with these young people.”
Thanjavur is a firm believer in volunteering and contributing to the community.
“Through volunteering, I seem to get more, even for the little I’m able to give,” he says with a smile.
For information on volunteering with ICA, contact Liz Bean, Coordinator of Volunteer Services.
For information on ICA’s Youth & Family Services, contact program coordinator, Gita John-lyam.
Article by Karishma Konikkara
Photos by Quinton Gordon