A Kamloops businessman who has inspired the community to help improve cardiac care at Royal Inland Hospital now has his eyes set on breaking down barriers to health-care education.
A new partnership between the ICCHA Wish Fund and Thompson Rivers University aims to raise $1 million to fund four years — an entire degree — of post-secondary studies for 20 nursing students in financial need in the coming years.
Every $50,000 raised can put one student through the four-year nursing program.
The partnership was announced on Monday (June 7) in front of TRU’s new Chappell Family Building for Nursing and Population Health.
ICCHA Wish Fund founder Al Patel, as well as Bridgeport Carpet, Charan Rai, Ebata Eye Care, Linda Turner Realty, Lyons Landscaping, Sairam Developments and Windsor Plywood have committed $100,000 in seed funding, while the remainder of the fundraising target will be raised by the ICCHA Wish Fund through community events and donations.
Patel hopes the first nursing student to benefit from the ICCHA Wish Community Ambassador Fund will receive a bursary this fall, when students are expected to return to the classroom at TRU after the COVID-19 pandemic led to remote learning for the past year.
TRU president Brett Fairbairn said the partnership will “bring down financial barriers for students in the spirit of open access and inclusion.” Patel told reporters students with good grades and in financial need will qualify.
Patel knows firsthand the impact of financial support when pursuing education. He said when he came to Canada from Fiji, scholarships and bursaries helped him obtain an education and become a successful businessman. In 2007, he founded the ICCHA Wish Fund, which has raised almost $2 million for cardiac care equipment at Royal Inland Hospital.
On expanding the ICCHA Wish Fund from the hospital to the university, Patel said nurses are the backbone of a community. He cited a shortage of nurses and demonstrated their importance during the pandemic. He said with the gift of education, nurses who receive financial aid will go on to help many people in the future.
“Together, we can make the wish of a lifetime come true for a nursing student in financial need,” he said.
Brian Daly, TRU’s vice-president of university relations, described Patel as someone with a “giant heart” and “steel will” to engage the community.
With $900,000 left to raise to help 18 more nursing students, Patel is encouraging individual donors and community groups from throughout Canada to join in his latest cause. Should groups from one given community contribute, the money will support a student from that particular community to attend TRU.
When the fundraising campaign reaches $250,000, learning space in the Chappell Family Building for Nursing and Population Health will be dubbed the ICCHA Wish Community Education Centre.