Karm & Gian Rai

Karm Kaur attended school through Grade 10 and then worked on the family farm until she married Gian Singh Rai in 1949.

It has been more than seven decades since Karm Kaur Rai's first day of school but she still remembers what it was like to be the only little girl in her class who spoke next to no English. And her first teacher wasn't particularly sympathetic.

"I think she was prejudiced," says Karm Kaur. "I knew Punjabi a lot better than I knew English, and I had a difficult time at school at first. But my second teacher was wonderful. She taught me a lot and she even used to walk to and from school with me and my younger sister."

Karm Kaur was born in 1927 in Agassiz and spent most of her childhood in Chilliwack, where her father owned a 150-acre farm. Like most children in farming families, she would do chores every day after school. The work was hard but even as a child she could see that her family was more fortunate than most when the Depression left many people without the means to obtain even the basic necessities.

"It didn't matter what nationality you were, many people were going hungry in those days," says Karm Kaur. "My dad's farm was the second biggest farm in Chilliwack and he would give people food or give them some work on the farm and pay them what he could."

Karm Kaur attended school through Grade 10 and then worked on the family farm until she married Gian Singh Rai in 1949. She went on to become a psychiatric nurse and went to work at Riverview Hospital in 1963.