Smita Akale’s first volunteer position, at the age of 16, involved working with the children of sex workers in Mumbai’s Kamathipura red-light district. Her job was to give these children food, play with them, and eventually help them enroll in school.
Akale is a model volunteer. Her resume includes stints at nursing homes, mental health clinics, a life coaching institute, and with special needs children as a school councillor. She speaks English, Hindi, Marathi, Kannada, and Gujarati, and says she understands Punjabi, Kashmiri, Tamil, Malayalam, and Telugu. When she arrived in Canada in 2019, on a visitor’s visa, she was determined to pitch in right away. None of the Canadian organizations she contacted wanted her.
“If you are on a closed work permit, that’s OK,” Akale says. “If you are a student, that’s OK. But if you are on a visitor visa, t
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