Nonit: A Dedicated Volunteer
The day he was born, the outlook for Nonit Singh Dhaliwal did not seem bright. Three months premature, he had cerebral palsy and his lungs were incompletely developed. Doctors did not think he’d live for more than an hour. Now, at age 26, he recalls that story with pleasure. He proved them wrong.
Today, long after making the transition from ErinoakKids’ care to adult life, he remains a familiar sight at ErinoakKids as a volunteer
“Nonit has been a wonderful addition to our volunteer team, helping with many services such as Teen Drop In, Mentorship, the Family Resources Centre and Volunteer Services administrative support,” says Amy Obendorfer, Volunteer Services Coordinator. “This was all in addition to his busy school and work schedule.”
Nonit first came to ErinoakKids as a client at age two and a half. One of his earliest memories is of those preschool days, and the encouragement he received.
“I remember crying; I don’t remember the reason,” he recalls. “I was just crying, and everyone around me was trying to get me talking, get me smiling.”
With continued support, Nonit overcame some of his disability and learned to maximize his abilities. Wheelchair clinics helped keep him properly equipped and skilled with his wheelchair, and he was fitted with ankle foot orthotics to brace his lower legs as he learned to use a walker.
“I started walking when I was seven,” he says. Indeed, walking was one more surprise, as his doctors once believed he would never walk. Today Nonit uses a walker, although he also uses his wheelchair a lot. “In the house I can walk with a cane, no problems,” he says.
As a child, he also worked to overcome shyness.
“If you spoke to me I’d talk to you, but would not initiate a conversation.” So he dove into the social activities ErinoakKids had to offer as a way to learn to reach out. “I was one of the original members of Teen Drop In. It was really fun for me because I could be with peers from ErinoakKids.”
After he transitioned out of ErinoakKids, Nonit attended Humber College to study Tourism Hospitality Management. Then, as he became more sure of himself and what he wanted, he made the jump to Sheridan College in a Business program focused on Human Resources. “At Humber College I had a teaching assistant, and she would advocate for me. Later, at Sheridan, I was ready to build on that and I learned to reach out more.”
Through all that his dedication to ErinoakKids never wavered, and while at college he found time to return in many roles – particularly as a mentor to other young people. In addition, he has often served as an ambassador for the organization.
Today this once shy young man looks forward to attending university to complete his training in Human Resources. He is now very much a ‘people-person,’ excited to help others find their way. And he still volunteers regularly at ErinoakKids, helping in the Family Resource Centre at the North Sheridan, Mississauga, location.
“Wherever they need me, anything ErinoakKids needs – I’ll do it,” he says.
His advice for other young people who are clients of ErinoakKids?
“Don’t give up. Don’t let people say you can’t do things. You need to prove them wrong.”