A decision made 50 years ago, to honour someone born over 100 years ago, continues to make an enormous difference in the lives of Forestry students today. The Kapoor Singh Siddoo Foundation (KSSF) has supported 87 students through scholarships, and Emily Dorey and Victoria Diederichs are two of the happy recipients.
Emily is a student in the Natural Resources Conservation program. She is blunt about the difference the Kapoor Singh Siddoo Scholarship has meant for her. “I get to eat,” she says. “That may sound extreme but right now my student loans, part-time job and savings barely cover my fixed expenses so without the scholarship I would have had to take out additional loans in order to buy groceries. The scholarship also reminds me that working hard to achieve a high GPA can help me to be a more independent individual.”
Victoria is in her third year of Forest Resources Management, working toward a career as a professional Forester. She received the Kapoor Singh Siddoo Scholarship in Forest Ecology in 2016. “I am so grateful for the opportunities that I’ve been given not only to make the most of my education, but also to broaden my horizons in many other aspects of my life,” she says.
The story behind the Kapoor Singh Siddoo Foundation scholarships goes back 100 years to 1906, when Kapoor Singh Siddoo left his job and family in India and moved to San Francisco as part of the first wave of South Asian immigrants to North America.
Within a few short years of his arrival, immigration restrictions and widespread racism had narrowed his job prospects to two alternatives: farming in California or the lumber industry in British Columbia. Choosing the latter, Kapoor partnered with Mayo Singh to establish a lumber business, which endured despite the Great Depression, prejudice and discrimination.
Eventually Kapoor’s wife Besant Kaur was able to join him in Canada, and over the next few years they had daughters Jagdis and Sarjit. Following the dissolution of his partnership with Mayo Singh, Kapoor sent for his brother Tara from India and started his own lumber business. With a forest near Sooke Lake on Vancouver Island and a sawmill in what is now Barnet Marine Park in Port Moody, the Kapoor Lumber Company grew and thrived.
In 1959 Kapoor retired at the age of 74, and he died five years later. In 1967 Besant, Jagdis and Sarjit established the Kapoor Singh Siddoo Foundation in his memory. The foundation’s donations are divided equally between India and Canada, reflecting his view that he was a citizen of both countries.
Carey Siddoo is the General Manager of the Kapoor Group of Companies, and a director of the Foundation. Tara Singh Siddoo is his grandfather, and Kapoor is his great-uncle. Dr. Jagdis K. Siddoo, her husband Donney, and Dr. Chanda Siddoo-Atwal (Dr. Sarjit Siddoo’s daughter) are also directors of the Foundation.
“To this day funding from the family and revenue from Kapoor Lumber helps sustain the Foundation and giving. We operate our forest sustainably, with an annual cut volume that will allow for continuous logging for the next two decades,” Carey says.
The Foundation supports University scholarships including the UBC Faculty of Medicine, and to date has supported at least 34 students there. A new KSSF Endowment Fund was established in the Faculty of Medicine in 2012 and will be fully funded in the years to come, thereby enshrining Kapoor’s legacy for the benefit for future medical students.
Carey is pleased to be one of the stewards of his great-uncle’s legacy. “Kapoor came here looking for the North American dream, and it was completely fulfilled. Then he had the foresight and generosity to give back,” he says.