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Alumni: Giving U of T more reasons to be proud

Alumni Portraits
David Berkal
Current Industry: Business, Humanitarianism
Honours Bachelor of Arts (HBA) 2011, University College

Berkal considers himself an entrepreneur, an activist and a traveler at heart. He is the co-founder of Operation Groundswell, a social enterprise that offers genuine, ethical and affordable volunteer programs overseas. He also co-founded the Canadian Roots Exchange, which brings together Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth on road trips that engage with the teachings of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples.

Berkal said about Operation Groundswell: “We do backpacking with a purpose. We engage in the culture, and have a genuine experience mixed with important community-requested projects. We travel off the beaten track, not the typical guidebook thing.”

Berkal travelled to Ghana in 2007 to design the volunteer program. Operation Groundswell is in its 7th year and runs 30 programs in 11 countries, all while being 100% financially self-sufficient. The organization raises hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for critical on-the-ground projects.

Mostly I got involved in university life to meet fellow students. I also cared about creating a better environment in the programs I was part of,” said Berkal, now pursuing his MBA at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

In 2011, Berkal was the Valedictorian of the Next 36 Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute, a tech-based incubator for 36 undergraduate students from across Canada that consists of academic and personal mentorship from some of Canada’s top business leaders. He was also awarded the Dean’s Student Leadership Award, U of T’s most prestigious leadership award, given to only one student each year.

Published November 2013

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