Young Tibetan Canadian, Chemi Lhamo, is at the Gajang Buddhist Meditation Centre in Parkdale, Toronto, wearing an elegant traditional blue dress and sharing her view of the Toronto Tibetan community and her journey as a student leader. She was born in 1996 in Mysore in the south of India and her family was part of the Tibetan exiles of the 1960s. While she speaks Tibetan with community members, she was immersed in the English-speaking world of Toronto as of Grade 6, when her father moved with his three children to Canada in 2007. Chemi’s journey is remarkable. Fully committed to her studies, she was captain of her school’s volleyball and basketball teams and was elected class president of the Parkdale Collegiate Institute in Grade 12. In 2014, she attended the University of Toronto in the neuroscience and psychology program and was elected vice-president of the Scarborough Campus Student Union. In February 2019, she became Student Union president.
During her time at university, Chemi held various leadership roles within activist groups and volunteer organizations that support Toronto’s Tibetan community and Tibetans around the world. She is even a member of the Canadian Tibetan Association of Ontario board of directors.
Her inspiration and motivation are grounded in the teachings she receives from her Buddhist monk friends, and, of course, from the spiritual teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Human relationships, founded on compassion, empathy, wisdom, and peace, are at the heart of the Buddhist precepts that guides this charismatic young leader. She also reminds us of the Buddhist belief in reincarnation and the continuity of life through different living beings. According to her, we must show great respect to our parents and all living creatures. Recently, she participated in a gathering of young leaders from around the world at the main temple in Dharamsala, India, to receive the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. To finance her studies, she worked various jobs in the restaurant industry. Chemi considers herself an entrepreneur and her experience in the business world definitely provided inspiration in that regard. For her, economic success is a way to give back to your community. Her internships at the Parliament of Canada in 2015 and 2017 have likely fuelled her actions as a leader in public life. While she does recognize that discrimination against people of colour exists in Canada, she considers herself lucky to live here. When invited to speaking engagements, she shares her humanist messages, which are to be open-minded to other cultures, practice altruism and support your community by giving back. Her message to elected officials is clear: invest in youth and listen to the needs and aspirations of local communities.