The Canadian Bazaar
MISSISSAUGA: Terry Papneja is one of the few Indo-Canadian immigrants who have made a name not only in their professions but also charity work back in India.
Papneja, whose family migrated from Bhatti Chak near Gujranwala in Pakistan to India during the Partition, is known as one of the most successful dentists in Canada. He is equally well-known for his work in promoting education among India’s underprivileged rural children through the concept of student hostels.
“We carry out the mission of educating poor rural students in India through our non-profit AIM for Seva – Canada. We started it in 2002 and every year we organize fundraisers for our mission in India,’’ says Papneja who runs his Axis Dental Group in Brampton.
Over the years, Papneja’s non-profit has raised over $6.6 million for building student hostels for poor rural students in India.
“In the first year in 2002, we raised $20,000. But at the last year’s fundraiser, we collected $1 million. We are getting overwhelming response from people here who want to donate to the concept of student hostel for rural India’s underprivileged kids,’’ says the soft-spoken Papneja who is the president of AIM for Seva.
With the money, his non-profit organization has set up 113 student hostels across India.
“These student hostels are called AIM for Seva Hostels where the students are taken care of all their needs and given education from fifth grade to secondary level. After that, we take care of their higher education and professional training so that they become financially independent. Each student hostel accommodates up to 40-50 students. Our mission is to educate and empower rural India’s poor kids,’’ says the Indo-Canadian dentist.
Most of these student hostels have been started in the poverty-ridden areas of Madhya Pradesh and UP. “The locations of student hostels are also chosen on the basis of NRI donors want them. We want to extend this concept to the whole of India,’’ says Papneja who regularly visits India to see the progress of student hostels.
“Often I go to new locations and it gives me great satisfaction to see the happiness on the faces of those poor students.’’
According to him, each year NRIs from Toronto alone sponsor 600 students in India through AIM for Seva.
For its work to educate and empower rural India’s poor kids, AIM for Seva has been accorded the special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN and honoured by the University of Winnipeg.
“Our mission in India is getting bigger and bigger each year and it gives me so much happiness to give back to India,’’ say Papneja who came to Toronto in 1981.
“I finished my degree in dentistry in India and worked there for over a year before coming to Canada. My wife was already here. Since I had to update my Indian credentials, I joined dentistry course at the University of Toronto and finished in 1986. The same year I opened my clinic in Brampton,’’ he says.
Over the years, Papneja’s dentistry practice grew rapidly, making his Axis Dental Group one of the most famous in the Greater Toronto Area.
“Today, we are one of the biggest dental clinics, with 10 full-time dentists serving people. We have over 85 employees,’’ says the Indo-Canadian dentist.