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Port Coquitlam teen who once helped preemie babies is now reaching out to a new age group

A $1,500 grant from Rising Youth will help young people at risk of homelessness get a solid footing in their new homes
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Insiyah Dharsee is using a $1,500 grant from Rising Youth to 20 young people at risk of homelessness who are moving into a new affordable complex in Maple Ridge get their start by buying them kitchen supplies such as dishes and utensils.

A Port Coquitlam teen who previously directed her charitable energies toward helping tiny, premature babies is now reaching out a hand to peers just a little older than herself.

Insiyah Dharsee, 14, is using a $1,500 Rising Youth grant to purchase kitchen items like dishes, mugs and utensils for young people at risk of homelessness who are about to strike out on their own at Cornerstone Landing, a six-storey below-market rental building in Maple Ridge that has 20 bachelor suites set aside just for them.

Dharsee said their challenges hit close to home.

“That could be me in four years,” she said. “It would be hard to prepare to live on my own.”

Two years ago, Dharsee occupied her downtime during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic painting rocks to help brighten spirits during that dark, uncertain time.

The money she accumulated from donations helped her buy several pairs of surrogate hands — called Zaky HUGs — parents could use at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Royal Columbian Hospital while separated from their premature babies.

Again, her cause had a very personal connection, as Dharsee herself was born four months early and required care around the clock.

Her mother, Rubina, said it was a “very tough” time.

With that project behind her, Dharsee started casting about for another.

She read about the Rising Youth program online.

Led by TakingITGlobal, a worldwide network of young people working together to tackle global challenges, the grants direct funds from the Canada Service Corps toward projects administered by young people between the ages of 15 and 30 looking to create change in their communities.

Dharsee said she was intrigued, but had no idea where she might be able to use the money.

Then a conversation with a family friend directed her to Foundry Ridge Meadows that provides health and wellness resources to young people.

At first, Dharsee said she thought clothes might be the boost the youth could use. But that presented practical problems like how to shop for such a diverse group with different tastes and needs.

Her mom challenged her to examine her own life and reverse engineer the things she would require if suddenly that was yanked away from her.

That’s when Dharsee landed on kitchen items.

It’s easy to take things like plates and glasses for granted when they’re readily available, but when starting from scratch, they’re essential.

Dharsee and her mom headed to Ikea to do some research on what they could get for $75 a person, then returned when they had the grant in hand.

The boxes of table settings, glass tumblers, cups and utensil sets are being delivered Friday, in time for the young people moving into their first independent homes April 15.

Dharsee said the experience has given her a greater appreciation for the things she already has.

“We don’t really recognize what other people don’t have,” she said. “We have to acknowledge and be grateful for what we do have.”