Like many young, educated immigrants from India, Balraj (Raj) Singh Pagely could find work only as a labourer after arriving in Canada. "When I arrived in 1960, I thought I could teach, but the rules here were very stringent at the time," recalls Pagely, who had earned a BA at the University of Punjab before moving to Canada.
A newlywed (he married Buncy the same year he immigrated) with growing responsibilities, he accepted a job in the lumber industry. "Since I was having a child I had to take another avenue to support my family, so I worked for Victoria Plywood as a labourer." His desire to improve the prospects of the children of immigrants inspired Raj to become a union representative with the IWA (International Woodworker Association). "I got involved on their education committee to establish education scholarships for employees' children," says Pagely.
Driven by his passion for sports and teaching, in 1963 he managed to land a part-time job teaching physical education at Melbourne West Ham, a private Catholic school in Victoria. "I stayed there for five years, teaching and coaching field hockey," he says. "I also taught PE part-time at St. Joseph (from 1966 to 1968).
"I always dreamed of being part of sports in Canada and through teaching I was able to fulfill my passion," says Pagely, who won several awards as a runner and jumper during his youth in punjab.
In the mid-1980s, when many mills on Vancouver Island were closing down, Pagely formed the Victoria Plywood Co-operative. From 1985 to 1995, he played a key role in the management of the co-operative, his roles included, at different times, president, vice-president and member of the board of directors.
A lifelong volunteer who received numerous accolades for his years of volunteer work, Pagely espouses the values of education and giving back to the community.
"There is a saying in our religion by Guru Nanak that says, 'Service is thy duty; reward is not a concern.' That has been the philosophy I have lived by all my life."