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Local Hero Awards 2023: New Canadians bridge gap in giving with Fateh Care

New non-profit is winning hearts by caring; hugs are the reward
Harjas Singh Popli’s non-profit fills a void for those facing food insecurity on Vancouver Island. (Fateh Care/Facebook)

The West Shore Local Hero Awards are back! You can find this year’s special feature in the March 22 edition of the Goldstream Gazette or online under e-editions. Stay tuned for more on each of this year’s honourees, you will be able to read their stories online at

Harjas Singh Popli sleeps soundly – if briefly – at night. Exhaustion may be a factor, but primarily the sound rest is a result of overwhelming peace, and both are derived from the same source.

A full-time job in human resources in Esquimalt keeps him at a desk much of the day. Then he does the equivalent of a full-time job giving back as founder and executive director of Fateh Care Canada, a non-profit, registered charity created to bridge a gap in local resources.

Fateh is a Sikh word meaning winning or victory, so Fateh Care is like winning hearts by caring, Harjas explained. He and wife Navneet Kaur Popli started the program after experiencing that void themselves.

Harjas learned he’d earned a West Shore Local Hero Award as the family marked its third anniversary of coming to Canada. They landed in Calgary in March 2020 – a time immediately recognizable to many as the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the impacts, they found themselves dependent on food banks.

The family soon moved to Greater Victoria when Navneet started her job as an associate professor at the University of Victoria and Harjas took a job in Surrey, commuting back and fourth.

The family took a hit in March 2021 when they all contracted COVID-19.

House-bound and new to the country, without family or friends at hand, they relied on community supports. After reaching out to organization after organization it was clear - getting food to the house couldn’t happen.

“It was an awful time. There was no organization that comes to you and gives help,” Harjas said. “There’s a huge gap between people needing help and people helping.”

Again they muddled through, but the experience exposed the massive missing piece.

Based on the Sikh principle of dasvandh, the couple started by giving back 10 per cent of their income through Fateh Care.

To fill the complicated gap, Harjas just started offering help online. As a guy with a fairly new Facebook profile that had few friends, he worried people would see a red flag instead of an offer for help. But people in desperate situations did accept his help, then shared their joyful experiences.

The word of Fateh Care spread.

With food agencies only able to open certain times and days that don’t always jive with public transit options or a working person’s schedule, one key driver is getting food to folks.

Harjas remembers a woman with three kids and a new baby who just couldn’t pack them all up and get to the food bank. She hugged him for 15 minutes.

Now, the organization is now certified non-profit, has a full board and boasts a group of volunteers to help provide aid. The majority of the work continues as it started – groceries dropped on doorsteps at unusual times of day, or in unusual circumstances.

One of the questions Canada Revenue Agency had during the registration process was how he knows the folks he’s helping need it. The answer is pretty simple: they asked.

And Harjas refuses to complicate the process.

“You’ve already shown your courage to reach out. You reached out, you will get help.”

There’s a cost in time, fuel and cold hard cash – especially in the face of continuously rising food costs.

“That’s why the gap exists. It needs a lot of time investment.”

But it’s not a job, it’s work Harjas wants to do that fills an unseen bank.

“And that bank is getting bigger and bigger,” Harjas said. “The best thing about this is the blessings that I get, the hugs that I get.”

He’s confident what comes around goes around, and should he find himself in need again “there will be 500 hands raised.”

READ MORE: 2023 Local Hero Awards


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Harjas Singh Popli and his 12-year-old, Manarap Singh Popli, cruise through the grocery store, gathering goods to deliver to people in need. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
The Poplis work together to carefully stack the Fateh Care groceries into the back of their car. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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