Why We Give: The Virani Family Story
Every year, Science World delivers outreach programming directly to tens of thousands of students across BC. However, a recent survey showed that only 37% of our members know we are a non-profit charity. These stories from our members who give beyond their membership fee help bring awareness to our work and the importance of their donations. Without their support, our outreach programs would not be possible. Becoming a monthly donor helps ignite wonder and empower dreams for all.
In 1972, Ugandan dictator Idi Amin expelled 60,000 people of South Asian descent from Uganda. He threatened they either leave the country within ninety days, or “find themselves sitting on the fire.”
His violent army enforced this ethnic cleansing. Many fled with little more than the clothes on their backs.
Seven thousand of those expelled landed in Canada. It was the first time in history that this country accepted a large group of non-white refugees.
And the Virani family—three generations born and raised in Kampala—comprised a part of that group.
Today, Anisha Virani says, “Idi Amin didn’t give anyone much time. Three generations of my family left everything behind and started all over in Vancouver. Canada welcomed us with open arms.”
She says with this support, her father was able to start a successful food manufacturing and distribution business, which the family sold to a private equity firm in 2007.
Since then, they’ve operated the Amir and Yasmin Virani Family Foundation, supporting non-profit charities that make lives better for underserved and vulnerable children in BC.
“My parents wanted to give back to the province that had welcomed them in 1974.”
A Perfect Match
Today, there’s a whole new generation of Viranis who, according to Anisha, “just love, love, love Science World.”
Anisha’s brother Sean and his wife Alice have four young children, and they’ve held a family membership to Science World for years.
Alice tells me, “When I ask my kids, ‘What should we do today?’ they say, ‘Can we go to Science World?’ It’s their favourite thing to do. We go all the time. They love the interactivity. They get to learn and they get exercise. It’s just perfect.”
When the opportunity arose for the Virani Family Foundation to support Super Science Club at Science World, it was a perfect match. Super Science Club has delivered after-school programming to thousands of the most underserved children in the Lower Mainland for over eighteen years.
The Virani family were able to visit Super Science Club and see the impact for themselves. Anisha says, “We got to watch the fabulous team from Science World teach a class at an inner-city school about complex scientific principles in a really fun, engaging away. The kids were immediately pulled in, faces lit with wonder and fascination…Truth be told, so were we!”
“These types of programs spark imagination and creativity and hopefully make kids go, ‘Ah! I can do this. I want to do this.’ We want to help provide these children with exposure to experiences and opportunities they may not otherwise get.”
Anisha also has a more personal and somewhat profound connection to Science World that originated almost ten years ago when we hosted the world-famous Body Worlds exhibition.
“That show stays with me to this day. The human body. How everything was peeled down to tissue and muscle and bone and core. I just found it so fascinating. To see what we are underneath the skin. I remember saying to my friend and her daughter as we walked through the exhibition, ‘Despite colour, caste and creed, when you peel away our skin, we’re all just exactly the same.’”
Anisha believes the challenges her family faced as new immigrants have uniquely positioned them to perceive the needs of others.
“Canada gave us the opportunity to pursue our dreams and goals. As we’ve grown older, conversations with my brother Sean have become about giving back. Youth from underserved communities face so many more challenges today. How do we help kids reach their potential? How do you inspire hope and possibility? And the answer is: you roll up your sleeves, get involved, and do you what can.”