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Heela Omarkhail says she wants to use her Vision 2020 experience to focus on issues affecting women, immigrants and young people.

opolja/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The donor: Heela Omarkhail

The gift: Raising $10,000 and climbing

The cause: Vision 2020, a Toronto-based philanthropic foundation

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The reason: To fund a variety of charitable programs

Heela Omarkhail thought it would take years for her to build up enough wealth to do anything meaningful in philanthropy. But then Ms. Omarkhail, 30, became involved in a program at the Toronto Foundation called Vision 2020 and she's now pledged $10,000 to start her own charitable fund.

Vision 2020 is a two-year program that introduces young people to philanthropy and helps them learn about the issues facing Toronto and other Canadian cities.

The program has 92 participants and Ms. Omarkhail got involved because of her work with real estate firm The Daniels Corp., redeveloping Toronto's Regent Park neighbourhood.

"My interpretation of this program is that it's a philanthropy MBA," she said from her home in Toronto.

She's already set up a donor-advised fund at Toronto Foundation, a charitable fund that is managed by the foundation, and has committed $10,000. She plans to raise another $10,000, which the foundation will match.

Ms. Omarkhail immigrated to Toronto from Afghanistan, by way of Pakistan, as a child with her family. She joined Daniels after graduating from the University of Toronto nine years ago.

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She says she wants to use her Vision 2020 experience to focus on issues affecting women, immigrants and young people.

"I'm hoping this will really help me shape the vision and mandate for my own foundation," she said. "Giving is not about writing a cheque. I very much subscribe to engagement philanthropy."

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