The below is a recount of a 4-hour interview that took place between Chemi Lhamo, ShineBrightUTSC’s Presidential Candidate in the upcoming SCSU elections, and the Underground team. The interview has been reduced to read-able format.
This is an in-depth look at SCSU President hopeful Chemi Lhamo.
By: Daniella Mallarino, Editor
“Wisdom and Compassion are the values I live by.”
These were Chemi Lhamo’s words when we asked her what her goals are and what she plans to achieve with her campaign as president of the SCSU for the 2019-2020 academic year.
Born in Tibet and raised in India, Lhamo has experienced what it feels like to move around to find home. She has also lived in Nepal as well as India, and now she’s here in Toronto. She speaks Tamil, Hindi, Tibetan and English. With this background, she has strived to bring her community and cultural values everywhere she goes and to advocate for the needs of others.
“I made history with my Tibetan community because I was the youngest involved.” When she joined the Tibetan Community Board, she was on her teens. Despite her dad saying no to the big commitment for someone her age, Lhamo insisted on trying and went for it.
This enabled her to see her community and learn from them in a way that gained respect from the elders and the adults. Lhamo’s dedicated attitude and drive to grow alongside her community made her the first female young teenager to work for the centre in Parkdale.
“They will shake my hand with respect.”
Not only was she part of the centre’s board of directors, she also allocated resources and funds towards projects and opportunities that allowed other members of the community to understand their space and cultural background. She was the founder and coordinator of the Tibetan Youth Alliance Committee, where youth are given opportunities to reconnect to communities and relatives.
“I teach youth how to do fundraising and event planning. When they take their grandparents to Central Island where they make comments like ‘It feels like Tibet’, that’s beautiful to me.”
With this extensive community involvement and dedication, as well as an international background, Lhamo tells us the story of why she decided to run for president of our student union and what her goals are. She now hopes to put her experiences to use as SCSU president.
“I wasn’t gonna run for presidency. I didn’t think about it.” However, after acquiring valuable experience within the SCSU and gaining insight into the campus issues, Lhamo decided that skills that she had learned from her Tibetan community in Toronto could transfer to her professional positions at the union and help engage students.
When she arrived at UTSC, Lhamo realized the potential this community had but also the lack of student engagement and events on campus. That’s when she decided to join the union. “I’m someone who’s (all-in), I’m driven. When you see the inconsistencies of the system, you need to challenge that. You need to believe in the power of people.”
By being involved with the SCSU, Lhamo also saw the challenges and limitations but also potential of our student union. “I respect my predecessors. I understand the limitations, nuances and challenges of this job. I don’t think I’m ‘anti-’ anyone because I strive for compassion and wisdom. As the current VP Equity, my priorities have been multi-faith. I made sure from the beginning that I was on the floor, making changes, reaching out to chaplains. I offered support to the Jewish and Muslim campus groups.”
As of her presidential candidacy, Chemi Lhamo has proposed a career fair for senior year students, advocate for free education for all, expand the Global Citizenship project, an e-calendar with updated events, and listening to students’ concerns.
“The ‘listening’ may be cliché but when I said that I come from values, I meant it. Because I saw the benefits from it. Most of the changes I’ve made on campus have come from conversations. When I say I’ll listen, I mean it.”
Chemi is also a strong advocate for conversations. By acknowledging the presence of various digital platforms that enable communication and sharing, Chemi encourages students to participate and bring the concerns out to the SCSU so there can be a response and accountability. However, she also encourages students to go to her office and talk. To share.
“If a student wants to share a concern, they can hold me accountable to listen. If they’d like to chat I’m more than happy to invite them to my office. Rather than an anonymous thing online.”
As for the career fair, Chemi Lhamo sheds light on the difficulties around entering the workforce and building a network that can support you once you face the real world.
She acknowledges that several points of her campaign will be challenging to accomplish, especially because being part of a student union also means that you have to follow several procedures and face many different perspectives. However, her commitment to the community remains, by stating that she’d be willing to donate her salary towards community events if the students wished for it.
When it comes to the opposition and her team, Chemi Lhamo is a strong believer of the skills and commitment of her team members.
“[The name Shine Bright] is because my team is full of stars, and they shine. Each one of them has the passion, expertise and dedication to take our projects to the next level and serve (students). Because our commitment is the student body.”]
As for the opposition, SCSYou, Chemi Lhamo remains open to working with other individuals and keeping the student body a priority. Though she notes that her personal relationship with Anup Atwal, the running president candidate from SCSYou, remains distant.
“We talked about racism and we had very different ideas. We simply have different views when it comes to issues of power and privilege.”
Lastly, Chemi Lhamo remains optimistic and hopeful for what comes next. She’s excited to put projects into action and serve the student community.