Armaan Sohi saw a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk outside the Subway restaurant at Millstream Village holding a sign that said: “Homeless. Hungry. Anything helps.”
“I gave him the money that was in my pocket,” said Armaan. “And he just said thank you.”
This encounter at the end of November was brief. Armaan had seen homeless people before, but this first act of giving seemed to overwhelm the Grade 6 student.
He started feeling bad that he hadn’t given the man more and asked his mother, Jeevan Sohi, to drive him back to the mall every day for two weeks to look for him.
They never found him. But Armaan remembered his social studies teacher at Colquitz Middle School telling the class to try to do good things for people who don’t have as much.
“The teacher said we have so many things that we don’t need, and so many people don’t have anything that you need to survive, so maybe if you do one nice thing, maybe other people will see it and they might do one,” Armaan said.
At first, Armaan asked her if they could buy a whole bunch of pizzas and take them to a homeless shelter. But when he heard that his grandmother and other women from the Sikh temple had cooked and served lunch to several hundred people at Our Place, he asked if he could do the same thing on his birthday.
And so on Saturday, his 11th birthday, Armaan dished out chicken curry, rice, buttered buns, cake and oranges to the community’s most marginalized.
Armaan decided the lunch should also be held in memory of his older sister Subha, who died of bone cancer in June 2012 at age 20. Armaan said he and his family plan to make the lunch in her memory an annual event on her birthday, Sept. 5.
“Armaan really wanted to do something and we decided, why not,” Sohi said. “We’ve got a lot. We’re thankful for what we have. Why not give back to the community? Victoria is where I grew up. It’s where my daughter was born and raised. My son was born here. It’s very, very special to us.”
When Subha was diagnosed with cancer, Armaan’s hockey training camp held a fundraising event for the family. People they had never met made donations, Sohi said.
“When Subha felt that overwhelming gratitude, she was like, ‘When I get better, I want to be able to give back.’ And her whole thing was do it for the less fortunate,” she said.
“We have what we have and we’re very humble about it and very appreciative. We’re an immigrant family. Our parents came here and worked hard. And everything we have, we’re so grateful for.”
Christmas without Subha is difficult because she loved the holiday and waited for it every year, her mother said.
“This year, even though we are celebrating, we still wanted to do something that we know she would have loved to be a part of. And I’m sure she’ll be there with us in spirit.”