REGINA — Last week was a big one in the life of 19-year-old Ishita Mann.
Mann was one of nine recipients of the 2021 Saskatchewan Volunteer Medal. The recipients were announced in March by Lt. Gov. Russ Mirasty, Mann received her medal at Government House April 26 along with the eight other recipients.
Mann is the youngest ever Canadian to receive the Saskatchewan Volunteer Medal. When she initially got the call that she had won, Mann was in class at the University of Saskatchewan.
“I felt very numb, because I never expected it to happen," she said. "You know, when you volunteer your end goal is not to gain any kind of recognition or to receive any sort of award. So, it did take a lot of days for it to sink in that this had happened.”
She said that when she finally did receive the medal last Tuesday in Regina, “it became a reality and I figured, like, this was a very big deal. I just felt very grateful to whoever nominated me and who believed I am capable enough and deserving enough of an honour of such stature."
Mann has spent her life dedicated to volunteerism. She is currently founder and CEO of Youth Helping Youth Saskatchewan, an organization that offers career mentorship advice and community involvement opportunities to support students academic and professional journey.
She is also currently involved with Jack.org, the Amal Club and the Arts and Sciences Student Union. At the University of Saskatchewan, Mann is a cellular, physiological and pharmacological sciences student and a Chancellor Scholar.
Mann was born in India and lived in various communities in Canada but spent her high school years in North Battleford.
But Mann said her volunteering spirit began at an early age. She recalls that her maternal grandfather used to take her to the homeless shelter and the animal shelter starting when she was three. For her, it was an activity she did every Saturday and Sunday.
“Back home, for me volunteering was just something fun I did to get to know more people in my community and kind of learn about different experiences,” Mann said.
When she moved to North Battleford, she looked up various organizations and started getting involved.
While attending North Battleford Comprehensive High School, she was an active volunteer including for Battlefords Union Hospital, The Lighthouse, Battlefords Boys and Girls Club, and with meals on wheels. Mann had spearheaded a meals on wheels project during the pandemic, worked on that project with the Battlefords Union Hospital and with Darlene Kingwell, her mentor there.
Mann said that Youth Helping Youth Saskatchewan came about following her involvement in the SHAD Canada program at York University, which she was selected to attend.
“I always had an entrepreneurial spirit in me, and I wanted to do something more meaningful with my time,” said Mann.
She noticed when she came back to Saskatchewan there was a gap in supports for access to opportunity compared to Ontario or British Columbia.
What she decided to do was “create a platform, basically, where I would be sharing opportunities, whether that be jobs whether that be internships, scholarships and even just some tricks that I kind of read myself online about how to become a more professional and better individual.”
She said it really took off during the pandemic. “It’s been a crazy ride ever since and we’ve done a lot of projects in the community, and we’re happy and very excited to continue doing our work.”
Other recipients of the 2021 Saskatchewan Volunteer Medal are: Noela Bamford, Regina; Bob Bjarnason, Churchbridge; Velma Harasen, Regina; Major (Ret'd) Keith Inches, CD, Regina; Captain (Ret'd) Cathy Sarich, CD, Saskatoon; Bob White, Rosetown; Joyce Willick, Spiritwood; and Elaine Wirtz, Wadena.