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Volunteering at the Charity – Baljit’s story

Baljit Ahluwalia, one of our Involvement Volunteers, attended a fundraising event held by the Atwal Family. Here’s her account of what happened.

Image of people volunteering at a fundraising event held by the Atwal Family.

Meet Baljit

My role was to represent the charity and share our vision and goals and in this, raise awareness. I did this, but I also received a gift by attending.

Baljit Ahluwalia

Baljit, who lost her Mum to a brain tumour, is a charity volunteer and recently has played a part in developing our new Strategy. Last month, she accepted an invitation from her local Community Fundraiser, Firzana Khan, to give a speech at a fundraising event, hosted by the Atwal family in memory of their daughter, Milanpreet Atwal. Milanpreet died from a brain tumour five years ago. Her parents, Surjit and Daljit, have been raising funds and awareness ever since.

Community Fundraiser for Milanpreet Atwal
Daljit Atwal, Baljit Ahluwalia, Surjit Atwal

“When I arrived at the venue, a Community Centre in Hayes, I was greeted warmly by Surjit and Daljit as well as their family, including children and grandchildren! All wore The Brain Tumour Charity t-shirts. The hall soon filled with at least 100 people, a band, a photographer, the Mayor of Ealing, a councillor, a TV presenter and more!

“Guests were invited to take tea and refreshments with Indian favourites such as samosas, burfi (Indian sweets) and panjiri (a rare treat with recipes passed down through families) – all made that morning and donated by friends who continue to support with fundraising.
And the hall kept filling as more guests arrived, and an extra table prepared!

“Speeches were started with Daljit and Surjit sharing a beautiful and emotive poem in Punjabi, capturing loss and love.

Talking about my work as a charity volunteer

Baljit Ahluwalia giving a speech while volunteering for The Brain Tumour Charity

“I was then invited to speak and some will know, I have a fear of microphones, but this was well and truly dealt with at this event. How could I not speak when parents of a child lost shared the depth of both their love and grief with all there… I spoke about The Brain Tumour Charity, the vision of ‘LIVING LONGER AND BETTER’ in the co-created new strategy and my links as a volunteer. “

Baljit Ahluwalia

Read LIVING LONGER AND BETTER – The Brain Tumour Charity’s new community-created strategy.

Further speeches followed, including from the Mayor of Ealing, who spoke in English and Punjabi and had everyone “belly laughing” with her anecdotes about married life during the pandemic. A singer friend of the family shared traditional songs and “boliyan” Punjabi heritage folk songs, and invited guests to dance. The event raised over £2,200 with donations still coming in. For Baljit, attending as a volunteer brought unexpected benefits.

“It was a phenomenal, emotional, and joyous event where a Punjabi community came together through their love and support of the Atwal family.

“In 2020, I lost my dad suddenly and without warning, to COVID in April, just as we were going into the first lockdown. Mum, at this point, was post-surgery, chemo and radiotherapy for a glioblastoma multiforme, the most aggressive form of brain tumour. She passed away six months later, at home and in my arms.

“With losing my parents, I felt that I had lost a culture and a language. My children do not speak Punjabi and only my parents really connected with my version, with its grammatical errors and pronunciations – they accepted it all and it was a big part of my heritage and identity. I now only speak Punjabi with my uncle and aunt but it is not every day and I feel as if this part of my now fragmented identity, is disappearing.

Volunteers for The Brain Tumour Charity smile while at a fundraising event

Baljit’s personal reward for volunteering

“Attending Surjit and Daljit’s event as a volunteer, my role was to represent the charity and share our vision and goals, and to raise awareness. I did this, but I also received a gift by attending. A gift of hearing my parents’ language, but also boliyan and gidha, the folk singing and dancing, passed down through Punjabi families.

Baljit Ahluwalia

“It took me back to my childhood and growing up, with boliyan and dancing at home, at any gathering of women. A chance to share stories, love and laughter.

“So whilst I was there to give my time and support, I was given the gift of language and culture.

“Thank you to Surjit and Daljit for this and thank you Firzana, for asking me to attend.”

Could you be a volunteer?

Volunteering is a fantastic way to build your skills, meet new people and have fun, all while making a real difference to the lives of those affected by a brain tumour. Find out more: