Skills for Change NPA: A Celebration of Successful Immigrants-e09

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by Claudio Muñoz

Published March 2009 – Every year, since 1994, Skills for Change has celebrated newcomers’ success. The New Pioneers Award, a recognition of immigrants’ hopes, hard work and achievements, has become a testimony of Canadian people, settlement agencies and institutions that help immigrants start a new life. It is also the recognition of newcomer’s contribution to their new home.

Canadian Newcomer Magazine is a proud sponsor of this initiative.

This year, seven newcomers’ stories are being celebrated. They came from different places, but faced similar obstacles. They are all examples of what newcomers can do, how far they can get, and how their triumph is Canada’s victory.

Entrepreneurship: Neena and Vijay Kanwar

The story of Neena and Vijay Kanwar is a tale of both love and money, of supporting one another to achieve great success.

Vijay and Neena Kanwar – EntrepreneurBoth Neena and Vijay were born in India. Neena immigrated to Canada when she was 16 years old. She got a Bachelor of Science Degree, at University of Toronto (U of T) in 1979. Years later, in 1981, she obtained her Registered Nuclear Medicine Technologist Degree from the Toronto Institute of Medical Technology.

Vijay received his professional Mechanical Engineering degree in India. After that, he decided to continue his education in Canada where he received his MBA from Rotman School of Business at the Uof T. Vijay also got the ICD.D certification by the Institute of Corporate Directorates which is the professional body representing the director community in Canada.

For six years, Neena worked at St. Michael’s Hospital as a Nuclear Cardiology Technologist. With all that experience she decided to create KMH Cardiology and Diagnostic Centres in 1988. Two decades later, KMH is recognized for expanding diagnostic health services across Ontario and reducing wait times by delivering high quality, accurate diagnostic procedures on a timely basis.

Vijay is the President and Chief Financial Officer of KMH, North America’s largest provider of nuclear cardiology services and KMH MRI and Health Care Centres.

But their journey didn’t end there. In 2006 Neena launched the KMH Family Assistance Services, a charity that assists people who want to improve their quality of life through the HEAL initiative (Health promotion and Empowerment through education to Achieve a higher standard of living through better Lifestyle choices.)

Neena and Vijay have done much more than that. Neena has been president of associations and director of several boards. She won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of Year in the Health Services Category in Ontario for 2006 and she has been named Entrepreneur Woman of the Year. She was recognized in 2001 as the Businesswoman of the Year by the Indo-Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

Vijay is also the President and Director of Lambardar Inc., designing, planning and coordinating the construction of state-of-the-art medical facilities. He founded Transamerica Medical Inc., a medical supply company specializing in bulk purchasing arrangements.

He has also served on several boards. In 2006, he and Neena, contributed $5 million to the Credit Valley Hospital for an Ambulatory Care Centre.

Arts: King Achilla Orru Apaa-Idomo

King Achilla Orru Appa Idomo – ArtsWhen he arrived in Canada in 1989, King Achilla needed to find a way to acquire the skills to function independently in a highly organized society.

He had spent the four years before coming to Canada in a refugee camp in Thika, Kenya, which was a way of life completely different from Canada. The fact that King Achilla Orru Apaa-Idomo is blind has not deterred him from pursuing his passions. King Achilla’s music has received considerable critical acclaim for its unique blend of the African lokombe sound with rhythms and sounds of Western instruments. His life of achievement in music and community involvement is a testament to his success at moving forward with his dreams, despite the difficulties.

Science & Technology: Dr. Hadi Mahabadi

Hadi Mahabadi – Science & TechnologyDr. Hadi Mahabadi came fromIran in 1981. He is now a PhDin the field of polymer engineering from the University of Waterloo and has held various academic positions. While working for Xerox, Dr. Mahabadi received several awards for his work and creativity. In 2007 the Xerox Research Centre of Canada received the Immigrant Success Award for mid˗size employers, largely a result of Hadi’s commitment and dedication to building a strong organization of talented and qualified scientists and researchers. Bringing in skilled immigrants is one of the ways Hadi accomplishes that.

He has published more than 100 papers and given talks, seminars and speeches in many major international conferences. He was elected the Fellow of Chemical Institute of Canada and the Fellow of International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry. Currently he is a member of the advisory board of Ryerson University, the Canadian National Institute of Standards, the Ontario Centre of Excellence and an elected member of the Board of Governors of the Ontario College of Art & Design. He has also been involved in encouraging high school students to study in the field of Science and Technology.

Youth: Mariatu Kamara

Mariatu Kamara – YouthMariatu is an inspirational young woman who exemplifies the best of humanity. Despite her barriers – their hands were amputated by rebels during Sierra Leone’s civil war and she had never attended school – she has managed to integrate herself well into Canadian society and be a positive role model for other young people. She shares her heartbreaking story of rape, torture, the death of her child and having to beg on the streets, with courage and grace. Nothing could hold her back from her dream of graduating from high school (she did in 1997). She is currently studying at George Brown College’s Assaulted Women and Children’s Counsellor/Advocate Program.

Her memoir, The Bite of the Mango, co-written with her nominator Susan McClelland, tells the story of her life in Sierra Leone, her capture by rebel soldiers and how she came to live in Canada. She is now a UNICEF Canada special representative for Children and Armed Conflict.

Community Service: Jamila Aman

Jamila Aman – Community ServiceJamila Aman works tirelessly to help new immigrants and refugees adjust to their new environments. She arrived from Eritrea in 1981 and since then she has obtained a degree in Business Administration with a specialty in General Management and Public Administration, and an ESL teacher certification. She is also a graduate of the Executive Director’s Institute at the Schulich School of Business and is currently pursuing her Masters.

Jamila always looks for ways to continue to build viability and sustainability for Northwood Neighbourhood Services, the agency that she heads and that it is now a major community hub of activity and visibility. It provides programs, services and sanctuary for new immigrants. As Executive Director, she continues to explore avenues of growth that will aid new settlers.

Skills for Change Graduate: Pedro A. Vargas-Zamora

Pedro A Vargas Zamora – SfC GradPedro A. Vargas-Zamora came to Canada at the beginning of 2006 as a single, independent immigrant trying to forge his way in a new country. He was well established in Chile, where he had a career in Occupational Health and Safety.

Over the past two years, Pedro has achieved many of his goals by taking advantage of the many services available like language courses that improved his English and his confidence to speak to others. He also took the initiative: conducted seminars, lectures and public presentations on safety and risk prevention to other newcomer professionals through Skills for Change.

After completing Skills for Change’s Engineering Your Future program, Pedro wanted to give back. So he started the Skills for Change Multi-Disciplinary Professional Group which promotes the skills, talent, experience, dreams and energy of every individual and that also guides them in the process of starting a career in Canada.


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