A small gesture with a lasting legacy: How the Patel family is giving back

Faculty of Medicine

By Sébastien Chevrier

Advisor, Communications and Marketing, Faculty of Medicine

Patel family
By donating $1000 a year to support Indigenous students at the Faculty of Medicine, the tight-knit Patel family is strengthening their commitment to higher education, and building a legacy they intend to pass down from generation to generation.

As is often the case when they get together, sisters Prerana, Alaka and Unnati Patel talk about their parents, reminisce about their youth, and share common memories. It’s no exception as they meet again, not long after agreeing to establish a fund to support Indigenous students at the Faculty of Medicine, to discuss their contribution. This time, it’s the memories of school and their parents’ expectations that come flooding back.

"Our parents have always placed a lot of importance on education, it was the best way for them to successfully integrate into Canada,” explains Unnati. “They pushed us to work hard, and they were so right! We are grateful to them every day.” 

Patel family

Back in the 1970s, the sisters’ parents Kanti and Indu Patel knew how valuable a good education was, but they also recognized that education is not always accessible to everyone. For the Patels, it was one of the reasons why they decided to reunite the family (the 2 eldest daughters were living with their grandparents in India) and to immigrate from Uganda, first to England and then to Canada.

“Our eldest daughter, Prerana, was 16 and couldn’t complete her O Levels and A Levels in England due to the disparities in education levels between England and India and her advancing age,” says Indu, the mother. “We therefore decided to go to Canada so that she could study for a higher education.” Settling in Toronto, their daughters were able to learn and take their futures into their own hands. Adapting to Canadian culture was not always as easy as expected. The Patel family faced rejection at times, but they also remained determined. And today, they say the hard work has paid off: Prerana, Alaka and Unnati are fulfilled in their daily lives and have great careers. Among their notable accomplishments, Unnati was involved in developing Canada's technological achievements in the field of Aerospace including robotics for the International Space Station, Alaka is a legal assistant in the office of the Attorney General of Ontario, and Prerana is a QA analyst in the pharmaceutical industry.

That’s why the family, as close-knit as ever, decided that the time had come to give back. Grateful for the opportunity to build a good life in Canada, the Patels feel that they owe a great deal to the place they now call home, and especially Indigenous peoples. 

Patel family in 2016

"We are sensitive to the cause of Indigenous people. The uprooting, the isolation, and the indifference they had to face speaks to us,” says Unnati. "We knew that we wanted to help members of the Indigenous community, we also knew that our donation should go to education, and finally we wanted the education received to have a direct and long-lasting impact on the community."

Once the decision to make a difference was made the family worked on finding a way to make it possible. Seeking to stretch the funds they had available as far as possible, they decided to reach out to their bank to set up a family foundation. With an investment of $30,000, the Kanti and Indu Patel Foundation generates investment income each year that can be awarded to a student in need.

With the foundation in place, the Kanti and Indu Patel family scholarship was created in 2023, just a few years after Kanti, their father, passed away. The scholarship provides $1000 in support to one Indigenous student per year enrolled in the Undergraduate Medical Education Program at the University of Ottawa's Faculty of Medicine.

“Father believed in educating people and whoever works hard deserves our help,” says Perrana. “He always helped people who didn’t have money but worked hard. So this scholarship is fulfilling his wishes.”

“This scholarship is a financial support, but also a message”, adds Unnati. “We want to tell Indigenous students: You matter! We want you to flourish and give back to the community.”

Their generosity hasn't stopped with just one scholarship either. The foundation is already providing a similar scholarship for a STEM student at Lakehead University, and the Patel family is so pleased with the donations made by their foundation that they are looking to give even more. They continue to explore new ways of helping the community.

Alaka says no matter what direction they decide to go in, the family’s commitment to doing good will not change. “It's been the same motivation from the start: to provide for people who don’t have money but have a passion for medicine and helping people.”

Indu Patel

“Kanti and I wanted to leave a legacy behind, showing importance of education, uplifting Indigenous people, their family and their community.”

Indu Patel

"I feel good because we are helping the less fortunate to get an education and bring their communities up," says Indu. "These donations are intended to be permanent, which is the whole point of the family foundation, which will outlive us. We want these gifts to be passed down from generation to generation." 

Support the Faculty of Medicine today!
Use the “Other designation” field on our online donation form and indicate your support towards the 'UGME Indigenous Program'.