2021 Community Hero
ABOUT THE Hero
Rabiah Dhaliwal is an award-winning youth mental health activist, humanitarian, and community leader. Her experiences as a youth of colour struggling with depression, anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder have shaped the lens through which she views and navigates life. As a survivor of suicide, Rabiah is committed to lending her voice to champion awareness and education about mental health inequities, suicide prevention, and disability justice.
Passionate about STEM and medicine, Rabiah is currently a student at the University of British Columbia, in the Faculty of Science, where she is pursuing a degree in Biology. She plans to attend medical school after completing her undergraduate degree and work with Doctors without Borders in impoverished regions of the world in an effort to make healthcare more equitable and accessible for all. She plans to become the first Sikh woman to be Canada’s Minister of Health.
She is also Co-President of the Disabilities United Collective (DUC), an advocacy and support group for disabled students at the University of British Columbia (UBC) with over 200 members. Alongside her team, Rabiah facilitates weekly support group sessions to provide a sense of community and a positive outlet for disabled students. Through DUC, she has also established a mentorship committee to empower disabled undergraduate students by connecting them with mentors as well as an advocacy committee to advocate for greater accessibility measures in higher education settings. Alongside a team of student-activists, Rabiah testified to the President and Vice Chancellor of the University of British Columbia to call upon the university for meaningful and immediate implementation of the Accessible British Columbia Act by improving disability-related services, ensuring equitable public health decision making and creating an accessible culture of learning and teaching for disabled students and staff.
Most recently, she co-authored and published a survival guide with community resources, student testimonials, and tips and tricks for navigating university life as a disabled student. She also helped create two sensory rooms at the University of British Columbia which will serve as safe decompression spaces for students who are experiencing sensory overload or mental health flare-ups. Moreover, Rabiah served as a student-representative on a committee to establish two new accessibility advisor positions at UBC. In her spare time, Rabiah also serves as a Youth Educator with the Crisis Center of BC, providing mental health workshops to high school and elementary students to teach them about the importance of self-care.
Rabiah is also a research intern with the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Adolescent Health and Medicine, at BC Children’s Hospital where she works with adolescent patients with eating disorders. Acute medical stabilization is both often a time of crisis and opportunity to engage with youth and families. Rabiah’s work involves working side-by-side with these youth and their caregivers to learn about their experiences and help make their voices heard in order to improve the quality of care they receive in an acute pediatric medicine unit. Due to her own unique experiences of being hospitalized for mental health challenges as a youth, she understands what a vulnerable and challenging time this can be. For this reason, Rabiah is working to establish orientation documents with resources for patients with eating disorders to serve as a landing point and reduce fear and anxiety during their admission.
Rabiah is also Founder and Director of the Voices For Hope Foundation, a non-profit organization which aims to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health through an intersectional framework by spear-heading educational initiatives and providing those who identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) and/or LGBTQ2IA+, a safe-space and platform to share their experiences in an effort to empower and equip communities with the resources and tools for healthy healing.
During the pandemic, Rabiah created a healing grant program to make therapy more financially accessible for Indigenous people and provided $600 in therapy microgrants in the first round of funding. Rabiah also led a COVID-19 relief initiative in partnership with Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, after receiving a prestigious grant from His Royal Highness. She was honoured to donate over 1000 self-care items and meals to a local hospital to promote wellness among those risking their lives on the frontlines. She is currently working on integrating sensory technology into community schools.
Rabiah’s voice has taken her to Ottawa, the nation’s capital, where she served as a Jr. Team Canada Ambassador and used her position to work with Members of Parliament and philanthropists to find sustainable solutions to the growing mental health epidemic in Canada. She has also had the honour of representing Minister of Employment, Workforce Development, and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, at Canada’s House of Commons. Rabiah testified to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance to introduce a Mental Health Parity Act which would close the disparity between mental health and physical health and increase mental health funding to members of parliament and spoke to NDP leader Jagmeet Singh about the proposed act. Her goal is to continue this volunteer-based policy work to put an end to healthcare disparities in Canada. Rabiah represented Canada internationally when she was selected to kick off and be the face of German World Cup winner and professional soccer player for Arsenal F.C. Mesut Ozil’s #YourStoryOurVoice mental health campaign which raised awareness about fighting the stigma surrounding mental health. Her campaign testimony was received globally by 80 million people.
She’s also been involved with Surrey Memorial Hospital’s Medical Behavioural Unit for patients with neurocognitive disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Due to the unit being fairly new, and lacking funding, she put together a video highlighting the unit’s needs including interviews from doctors and nurses in hopes of winning a grant. Because of this effort, the hospital board and voters chose the unit to be the recipient of the Big Miracles Fund of $70,000. She has also worked as a brain health and geriatric medicine researcher at a local hospital and local senior care homes, where she helped develop an electronic tool to help doctors in the early prevention of mortality and frailty in seniors.
Due to losing her grandfather to cancer, Rabiah has also been a strong advocate for the need for blood donors and to increase the diversity of the national stem-cell registry so patients have a higher chance of successful donor matching. In the past, she has served as the former Vice President of the One Blood for Life Foundation, a non-profit organization which aims to educate the next generation of blood and stem cells donors in Canada. Rabiah’s work with the One Blood for Life Foundation has resulted in the recruitment of 1,410 new stem cell registrants, 3,350 blood donors and an activation of 542 volunteers. She also helped establish a provincial youth council with leaders from 30 high-schools.
She has received both national and international recognition for her humanitarian work and has been published in numerous articles such as in the National Post and in one of Canada’s largest fashion magazines: FASHION Canada. She is a Terry Fox National Scholar and a recipient of the prestigious Terry Fox Humanitarian Award, a scholarship given to 20 recipients across Canada who have displayed remarkable humanitarianism and academic excellence in the face of adversity.
Rabiah is a winner of the 2020 L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth Award, and was one of ten women across Canada to receive a total of $110,000 in charitable grants from L’Oréal Paris . In 2020, she was named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women in the category of RBC Future Launch Future Leaders, which recognizes young women who are transforming their communities through innovation, collaboration, and courage. Most recently, Rabiah was the recipient of the international 2021 Diana Award, given out in memory and honour of Diana, Princess of Wales for social action and humanitarianism. Rabiah is also passionate about competing in pageants which she uses as an opportunity to share her message of mental health reform. Rabiah won the prestigious title of Miss Canada 2021 1st Runner-Up and previously served as National Canadian Miss British Columbia 2018-19. She is also a recipient of the 2018 Surrey Top 25 under 25 award and the 2020 Community Leader Award where she was named Youth Volunteer of the Year