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Hugh McRoberts alumnus named L'Oréal Paris Woman of Worth

Hugh McRoberts Secondary alumnus hopes to make Richmond a safer place to live by launching BOLT Safety Society, a youth-led non-profit.

Richmondite Vedanshi Vala was named L'Oréal Paris Woman of Worth this year for her work to make Canada a safer place to live by using technology, especially for females. 

What's even more exciting for the Hugh McRoberts Secondary alumnus is that the BOLT Safety Society - a youth-led non-profit she founded five years ago - also received a $10,000 grant from L'Oréal Paris. 

"I was sitting in my pajamas when I got a phone call from L'Oréal Paris. I stood up and said: 'What? Is this actually real?,'” recalled Vala. 

The next minute, she realized that "we could do so much more work to serve the community with this fund."

Over the past few years, her society has been using technology to create an effective solution to the lack of security experienced by many individuals in the community, especially women. 

For example, the Safe Buddies program, one of the programs launched through Bolt Safety Society, can help individuals who don't feel safe walking home alone to be matched with a volunteer or volunteers who will stay on the phone with them. 

Through the $10,000 funding, Vala said they could finally afford Safe Buddies program services in places they couldn't serve before, such as Vancouver's Chinatown, where many immigrant seniors don't feel safe walking at night. 

Setting up an accessible App to help more women feel safer first struck Vala after she came across a report from UN Women when she was in Grade 10. 

An estimated 736 million women globally — almost one in three — experience physical or sexual assault at least once in their lives.

The statistics resonated with her and drove her to launch the Bolt Safety Society.