Growing up in Kenya, Ashid Bahl experienced the problems of wealth inequality first-hand. Now, living in Canada, he helps fight this inequality through his art and his non-profit charity, the For the Love of Children Society.
“I realized that some kids had more than others — it didn't sit well with me — and I wanted to make a difference in my school, so after that it just escalated into doing things all around the world.”
Bahl moved to Canada when he was 19 years old, after political unrest in Kenya forced his family to emigrate. Living in Kenya gave Bahl an inside look into the extreme poverty that plagues the world. Being more privileged than other children, he often gave his toys and lunch away to poor classmates while he was in school.
For Bahl, that was the beginning of the For the Love of Children Society.
“I wanted to show people that even one person can make a difference.”
After working in Alberta helping refugees and immigrants, Bahl felt that although he had helped many people in Canada, he wanted to expand his work to other countries. He now travels to war-torn countries and poverty-stricken villages all over the world to provide aid to struggling people, and especially children.
It’s been almost four decades since Bahl started the For the Love of Children Society. Since then, he has continued to travel and visit the children he helps, raise his own children, make art and volunteer with various organizations. He likes to makes sure that his family is involved with the charity as well.
“The values that I learned from my mom carried on, then I taught my own children the same values — and they’re doing well. They also travel with me on the different missions that we do, which is kind of life-changing for them.”
Kim Hunter is a former teacher and secretary for the For the Love of Children Society. She met Bahl while working for Campus Calgary/Open Minds, a program that brings Calgary students into a community setting to expand their learning further than what is taught in the classroom. He often spoke about his work to groups of kids who were a part of the program.
Hunter became interested in the work Bahl was doing and accompanied him on a mission to Peru where she was able to experience the living conditions of the children there.
“A lot of people said to me, ‘Why would you want to go see people living in this terrible poverty?’ But they were so loving and thankful of everything ... For me to see first-hand, the work that he does, and how it enriches the lives of children around the world, was really quite life-changing.”
After her trip to Peru, Hunter felt that she wanted to do as much as she could to help the charity and became a board member for the non profit.
“I think that what sets this charity apart from others is you get to see exactly where your money goes, and so you see those people who are benefiting from your donations and from your work.”
Bahl’s charity has built and supported 88 orphanages and schools, and has helped over 500,000 children over the past 38 years.
Along with providing aid and supplies to poverty-stricken countries, Bahl also has a few local projects in Calgary. He currently is working with the staff and students at Scenic Acres School in the city’s northwest.
“The notion that some people had more than others really bothered me, and that sort of compelled me to start the society later on. I wanted to show people that even one person can make a difference,” - says Ashid Bahl.
There, the students from kindergarten to grade four have been raising funds to help build a classroom for students in the Masai tribe in Kenya. The Canadian children made a video of them singing a song they learned in music class and Bahl took it to Kenya to show the Masai children. They then sent a video back of them singing the song in Swahili.
“The tribe is so grateful to the kids,” Bahl explains. “They were so surprised to find out that kids were raising money for them, which is kind of great. Kids helping kids is remarkable.”
Carol Hansen is the principal at Scenic Acres School, and believes that her students can learn a lot about the world by doing things to help the charity.
“They've got this real connection to make a difference, but we want it to be more than just asking for money. We want to teach them about why we should care about others — like what does it truly mean to be a global citizen?”
The school has also focused on teaching the children about Africa and Kenya to expand their knowledge on the continent.
Bahl also likes to mix his charitable work with his talent for art, which he developed at a young age. Many of his paintings have been auctioned off for the charity.
Bahl is also a poet and has a published book called The Eyes of a Thousand Burning Candles. A copy of the book was given to Mother Teresa and proceeds went toward her charitable work.
“This is what the book is all about; it’s to try and figure out who you really are as a person, because we are very powerful, very spiritual people, and we've forgot who we really are.”
If that weren’t enough, Bahl is also a director, winning the Best Film award at the Monaco International Film Festival in 2013. He directed a documentary about the work he’s done — wanting to give people a glimpse of the poverty and struggles that children in developing countries go through.
“The philosophy behind why I did the film, is that it's not about us. It's making life happen for someone else who is less fortunate than ourselves. In that lies the true significance of living.”
Bahl is currently working on a second movie, but instead of a documentary, he plans to do a feature-length film. He wants to be able to tell the stories of the underprivileged children he has helped and show people how they can make a difference.
“We want to show that, although they go through all this, the poverty, abuse, and neglect that they live in, that as children they are still giving ... but they don't have anything, so what can they give you? They just give you their love and affection.”
By creating the For the Love of Children Society, Bahl continues to show others that one person has the power to make a difference, and that there is more to life than just ourselves.
- By Stevie Savage