Every year, thousands of students from India come here with big dreams and ambitions. Behind every dream that comes true is a story of hard work, perseverance, and destiny.
Meet Harsh Thakkar, a social enterprise and interpretation / translation business leader, who arrived in 2001 as an international student. What made Harsh stand out was his focus. With his eyes on the prize, he faced challenges head on. He managed his studies while also taking on the responsibility of a peer mentor. However, Harsh felt it would be difficult to secure work experience points to qualify under the skilled immigration category, as back then international students were limited to work off campus. This motivated him to run for campus student representative. “After winning the election, I went to the Parliament of Canada to speak about allowing international students to work off campus,” says Harsh.
Today, Thakkar is the head of DIVERSEcity Interpretation and Translation Services in Surrey, BC. He oversees a team of more than 300 interpreters and translators who help clients communicate, especially in the health care and court systems, in more than 88 languages. Under his leadership, the business has grown to include rare languages, Indigenous languages and even American Sign Language (ASL). “We are proud to be a designated provider for provincial and municipal government interpretation and translation needs,” he says.
Harsh’s experience as a young immigrant makes him passionate about communication. He has always loved the multiculturalism in Canada and understands how it can create language barriers. “Language should never be an obstacle for anyone in a country as diverse as Canada,” says Harsh.
DIVERSEcity Interpretation and Translation Services is a social enterprise, certified by Buy Social Canada. That means its profits go toward the good works done by its parent charitable organization, DIVERSEcity Community Resource Society, which helps newcomers and other diverse communities in building the life they want in Canada. It offers free, multilingual programs, and services in language, settlement, employment, and counselling, providing newcomers with a foundation of information, skills, and connections to achieve their goals. The organization has championing diversity and inclusion for more than 40 years.
“It’s important to stay positive in the face of challenges. The most important attribute that helped me achieve my goals is my personal drive and ‘can-do’ attitude and maintain enthusiasm even when things get tough.” The same lessons apply in business. Professionally, Harsh has developed a reputation as a charismatic, optimistic leader with organizations such as the Vancouver International Marathon Society, before joining DIVERSEcity. Harsh, who also manages DIVERSEcity’s CELPIP Language Testing Centre, says he wants to continue to grow in his current role and take every opportunity to support newcomers to Canada, including mentoring international students in his personal time.
“As immigrants, we are surrounded by a lot of challenges, but don’t let those stop you from moving forward,” he advises. “A positive mindset is what’s going to allow you to succeed in your goals in Canada,” he says. “Honestly, we are so blessed to be in a country where people care about each other, so all you have to do is go out there and talk with people.”
This is the 12th year of the RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards, presented by Canadian Immigrant magazine and sponsored by RBC. The only national awards celebrating immigrant success, the winners are chosen after a months’-long process of nominations, judging, shortlisting and online voting.