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Barj Dhahan, founder of the Dhahan Prize for Punjabi Literature, speaking at L.A. Matheson Secondary during the launch of the Dhahan Youth Prize.
Students from Surrey and across the province are invited to share their Punjabi-language stories in a new youth creative writing contest.
The Dhahan Youth Prize, the first of its kind in B.C., was launched at L.A. Matheson Secondary and is aimed at sharing experiences and culture through storytelling, while promoting acceptance and understanding.
Prize founder Barj Dhahan said the concept for the youth literature contest came to him when his mother fell asleep after dinner at his house one evening. He watched her breathing deeply as she slumbered.
"It occurred to me that one day, my mother would leave her body," he said.
And that would mean her language from rural Punjab – one that has a 1,000-year history – would also be gone.
"We want to make sure the Punjabi language has a future," Dhahan said in announcing the new writing prize, "not only in its homeland, but around the world."
The goal, he added, was to recognize the richness of Punjabi history, honour and inspire authors and support a "rich, caring and open society."
The contest is open to all secondary students in B.C. who are studying Punjabi in Grade 11 or 12. Writing must be submitted in both Punjabi and English.
Sargun Kaur, a Grade 12 student at L.A. Matheson, is excited about the prospect of sharing creative tales in one of her three languages. She was born in Germany and lived in England and India before immigrating to Canada with her family two years ago. She speaks English and Hindi fluently, in addition to Punjabi.
"As a student, I'm really thankful to get this magnificent opportunity," she said. "We look forward to writing our stories."
Eight students (four each in intermediate and advance language skill levels) will be awarded $500. Submissions will be accepted until May 31 and awards will be given out at the Dhahan Prize Awards ceremony at the end of October.
For further information and eligibility guidelines, check www.dhahanprize.com/events/youth.