School of Thought
Puneet Kohli has been thinking about income inequality for a long time.
“In grade seven, I had two pairs of pants and two pairs of shirts, and I had to rotate them to make it look like I had a set for every day of the week,” he says. “It’s not that we were poor—I was still able to eat, I had a roof over my head. But I could tell that other people had more.
“Even more importantly, he noticed that the difference between the haves and the have-nots didn’t have anything to do with how hard people worked. He was surrounded by adults who worked very hard—they just didn’t make the same amount of money as some of his classmates’ parents, and this limited their access to the opportunities, networks and resources that could improve their lives.
“That stuck with me,” Puneet says.
Now a parent of four kids himself, he’s even more invested in building a more equal society—one where all children in the GTA have access to the same opportunities. That’s why he supports United Way.
He learned about the organization through work; Puneet is an Assistant Vice President at the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) and a few years ago, his then-CEO, Jim Keohane, encouraged him to get involved in the company’s annual fundraising campaigns in support of United Way. Jim arranged for some of his senior staff, including Puneet, to visit the Dorset Park Community Hub, a United Way agency in Scarborough that provides the community with a wide range of services, including employment services, home care for seniors, a food bank, youth programming and settlement services for newcomers to Canada. It was an opportunity for him to see the “work and impact first-hand,” Puneet says. “It then became an easy choice for me to give to United Way.
“For the past seven years, he has been supporting United Way at the Leadership level, and last year, he decided to level up his giving by becoming a major donor. And he hasn’t just been donating money; he’s also been donating time. In 2017, he co-chaired one of the most successful HOOPP campaigns ever. “Though I am rooting for the next campaign to beat ours for the sake of both United Way and the people it helps,” he says.
It’s all part of his mission to give kids in the GTA what they need to build better lives—including, most importantly, education.
“My parents definitely instilled in me the belief that you have to do well at school in order to get a good job and have a good life,” he says. “Then, when I became an adult and began seeing not only what’s happening within Canada, but also across the world, I really saw that a lot of society’s failings, whether that’s income inequality or racism, stem from ignorance. If you just have a good baseline education, that alleviates so much.”