Sandra Sunil [photo: Buzz]

Sandra Sunil

Catalyst for change

Profile | by Julie Bull

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Sandra Sunil’s generosity and commitment to community-building was clear throughout our entire conversation. She is a systems-level thinker with a community-centered heart who is demonstrating how to operate in non-hierarchical structures.

Unphased by outdated policy and procedure, Sandra sees that there are other ways we can operate in our communities, and she acts accordingly. “I have an idea and then I act on it to see what can be done. If I want to do something, I find a way to make it happen. I think we can all do that if we share our gifts with the world.”

In 2006, when she was in grade 8, Sandra moved to PEI from Edmonton with her family. Within a short time, she founded the welcoming committee which brought staff and teachers together to support new students. She also led other clubs and committees by hosting events and increasing visibility of the diversity within her school.

“If there’s a need, just do something to fill the gap and we can work out the kinks as we go.”

Her dedication to and passion for community building continued after high school and she has already completed a bachelor’s and master’s degree and founded a not-for-profit organization by the age of 23. Sandra recently earned a Master’s in Public Health and is working as a policy officer with the PEI Government Department of Economic Growth, Tourism, and Culture. 

Together with her parents and her brother, Sandra is also a part of 4S Catering and they have been providing a variety of delicious Indian foods to Islanders since 2011. During her time with 4S Catering at the Farmer’s Market, and through her personal and community connections, Sandra was seeing the barriers that people face in accessing safe and healthy food. 

“We were seeing and hearing about barriers and food insecurity so we wondered how we might fill that gap.”

While it can be daunting to see all the gaps and challenges and people may feel unequipped to help, Sandra reminds us to “help with the resources we have, whether that’s with our skills, knowledge, or time. Money isn’t the only way to provide community care.”

As a highly motivated and action-oriented person, Sandra founded a not-for-profit organization, 4Love4Care, to help address some of those gaps. Through this not-for-profit work, she has led a team to provide access to many free hot meals and she was a key organizer in the development of the PEI Community Fridge in Charlottetown.

“It’s been exciting to see other communities across the Island come together to open fridges and I do what I can to support their development. It’s all about community supporting community.”

With long-term visions of sustainable communities and her strong work ethic, Sandra imagines a time when mutual aid and community care are simply commonplace, and we learn to operate in more collective, non-hierarchical ways. 

“The community fridge model is one where it is not a hierarchy. No one person has control, and everyone has a role to play. It is community in action.”

In all her actions, Sandra looks to her family and community for guidance and direction: “I’m greatly motivated by my family and community. My family roots run deep, and we have intergenerational knowledge that is shared with us and helps shape us into who are.”

“My dad says that if we help at least one person in our life, all of the work is worth it.”

After hearing so many of the things that Sandra has already done, I was curious to know where she’s heading. Like most innovators, she lives her life by a compass, not a clock, so she doesn’t have a precise plan.

“I’m interested in many things, and I have an idea of the general direction I’d like to go but I’m not the type to have strict or rigid plans. I know I want to keep finding ways to support the community through public health and policy, and the community will guide me on that path.”

Julie Bullprofile