Youth Punjabi writers sought for contest; last year’s winners published

L.A. Matheson Secondary student Gunreet Kaur plans to enter her Punjabi writing in this year’s Dhahan Prize Youth Award for Creative Writing contest.

THE Dhahan Prize has, for the second year, launched its youth Punjabi creative writing contest, while celebrating last year’s winning students with a published anthology of their work.

The literature prize encourages youth to connect to their mother tongue and preserve their culture through storytelling. Once again, eight prizes valued at $500 apiece will be awarded to Grade 11 and 12 students throughout B.C. who are enrolled in Punjabi language classes.

At the contest launch at L.A. Matheson (LAM) Secondary, Dhahan Prize founder Barj Dhahan spoke to the crowd about the importance of language in generating an inclusive and caring society.

“We hope this will continue to inspire our youth to write, not only in Punjabi, but also in English,” he said, “and by inference, hopefully it will inspire youth to write in other languages as well.”

(Left to right) L.A. Matheson Secondary teacher Sandeep Parhar, Dhahan Prize founder Barj Dhahan, PLEA member and Dhahan Prize advisor Sadhu Binning, L.A. Matheson modern languages department head Gurpreet Bains, and Coast Capital Savings representative Ian Samson.

The contest launch also served as an opportunity to unveil an anthology, titled Lofty Heights, showcasing the work of last year’s winning eight writers. The stories are printed in English, as well as Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi scripts. (Next year, it will also include French.)

Gurpreet Bains, teacher and head of the language department at LAM, is thrilled the winning youth writers have been published in a book that can also be used as a resource for educators.

“Instead of building walls that separate us, we are building bridges out of our students’ words,” she said.

Grade 12 LAM student Gunreet Kaur plans to enter the contest this year, and is excited to express herself and share her experiences through writing,

“It provides a voice to all the exemplary ideas within the youth,” Kaur said. “The Dhahan Youth Prize is a unique opportunity for B.C. youth to build bridges between people and communities, regardless of background, heritage and ethnicity. Nelson Mandela said it right: If you talk to a man in his language, it goes straight to his heart.”

Stories must be between 800 and 1,000 words, written in Punjabi and translated to English. The submission deadline is May 31.

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(Write-up and photos: Surrey Schools)