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Divya Sharma, 15, in her home with one of her care packages in Winnipeg, April 17, 2020.

JOHN WOODS/The Globe and Mail

The organizer: Divya Sharma

The pitch: Creating Supporting Local Heroes

When the COVID-19 pandemic closed her Winnipeg high school, Divya Sharma spent time reflecting on the unsung heroes in her community.

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“I wanted to honour them and their selfless work,” said Ms. Sharma, a 15-year-old student at Fort Richmond Collegiate in Winnipeg.

She’d already been active in a number of causes at school, including pushing provincial officials to rename a high school course to make it more inclusive and working on several environmental initiatives. The pandemic led her in a new direction.

She decided to put together food packages for front-line health care workers and police officers. She approached the Assiniboine Credit Union to see if it would sponsor the program, called Supporting Local Heroes, and the credit union came through with enough funding to make 16 packages containing a small mix of non-perishable items such as pasta, cookies and chocolate bars. With the help of a friend, Ms. Sharma delivered the packages to the child abuse unit at the Winnipeg Police Department. Further funding from staff at a Bank of Montreal branch and a local youth organization allowed her to make 30 packages for a group of truck drivers, which was particularly important to Ms. Sharma since her father drives for a living. That was followed by 200 packages for health care workers at two city hospitals.

Ms. Sharma is searching for more funding to keep the service going through the rest of the summer and into the fall. She’s thinking of starting a club at school to get more people involved and she dreams of taking Supporting Local Heroes national.

“I’ll keep doing this as long as I can do it,” she said. “I really believe that youth have the power to change the world and we constantly have to take action.”

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