Immigrants of Distinction Award Recipients 2014
Arts and Culture Award: Yogeshwar Navagrah
Born in Nasik, India, Yogeshwar (Yogi) Navagrah has always been involved in the arts. At the age of 17 Yogeshwar left Nasik to pursue a formal education in architecture at the University of Pune. During his years of formal training, Yogi realized the role that urban design could play in shaping the future of cities: improving the quality of life for many through the creation of better public spaces. Yogi’s pursuit to further his education in urban design brought him to Calgary at the age of 23.
Yogi’s active involvement at the University of Calgary and with the Calgary community allowed him to combine his love of art with design. As part of his university project, Yogi identified the potential for redevelopment of Brentwood Mall, and his submitted proposal was awarded the City of Calgary Mayor’s Urban Design Award in 2005. Since completing his master’s degree as an international student, Yogi has received several awards for his work including a second Mayor’s Urban Design Award and a winning entry, “Centennial Grove,” in the City of Calgary Landscape Installation competition. Centennial Grove still stands opposite Calgary City Hall.
Today, Yogi combines his years of work experience and professional designation to bring people, concepts and art together through his own business, Navagrah Landscape Architecture + Urban Design.
Business Award: Margaret Adu
Margaret Adu was born in Cape Coast, Ghana. A highly accomplished architect, Margaret is the founder and managing director of Aomega Group Inc. operating as Aomega Lodges, a local personal care home.
Margaret has always been extremely community-minded and is today the President of the Ghanaian Canadian Association of Calgary and President of the Personal Care Homes Council of Calgary. In 2010 she received the Ghanaian Canadian Achievement Award for Community Service and in 2013 she was nominated for the a Black and Gold Award for her community and business efforts.
Educated in Africa, she worked in London, England, for a few years and moved back to Ghana to start her own business. She exhibited great knowledge in the world of architecture due to her diverse experience and thus had a lot to offer to her Ghanaian clients. She stood out from other architects because she paid great attention and detail to the needs of her clients. This trait Margaret still possesses, as she is detail-oriented in the business she runs today.
In 1993, Margaret married David Nyarko, who at the time was pursuing his doctorate at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Later that year, Margaret moved to Edmonton to join David and in 1997 the couple moved to Calgary. They are parents to Danielle, 17, Debbie, 15, and Kobby, 12.
Community Service Award: Dolores Dill
Born in Mexico, Dolores Dill came to Canada in 1966. She began her Canadian career as a teacher’s assistant and in 1981 attended the first Making Changes program for immigrant women presented in Calgary by the Arusha Centre. In 1982 she was part of the committee that formed the Immigrant Women Centre, now the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association (CIWA) and was named Treasurer of the Board. At this time she also settled into work at the Immigrant Services Calgary (then the Calgary Immigrant Aid Society) where, from 1981 to 1994, she excelled in providing settlement services.
After retiring in 1994 Dolores continued to be a persistent and dedicated volunteer. She has worked with Immigrant Services Calgary, Canadian Hispanic Seniors Services Society, Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, and Canada Revenue Agency, to name a few. In 2013 she was named Vice President of the Calgary Mexican Canadian Cultural Society.
Dolores’ legacy will endure for many reasons, but interestingly, in 1999 she wrote a message of love and understanding on behalf of the Canadian Hispanic Seniors Services Society to the future generation. This message is preserved in a capsule at Calgary’s City Hall, to be opened in 2024.
Dolores has three children and five grandchildren. She enjoys reading, writing, singing, dancing, and handcrafts.
Achievement Under 40 Award: Turin Tanvir Chowdhury
Dr. Turin Tanvir Chowdhury, who was born in Bangladesh, is an accomplished health researcher. He came to Calgary in 2010 after a seven-year stay in Japan where he excelled in his research training. He brought with him an impressive resume and a desire to contribute in population and public health. Within only three years, Turin joined the University of Calgary as a faculty member – a dream come true.
Turin’s research focuses on chronic disease prevention and control. To date he has published over 115 scientific papers and journal articles. He also published a book on hypertension.
Turin has excelled in the research work he has undertaken after coming to Canada. He estimated the disease burden of kidney diseases in Alberta. His work regarding lifetime risk of kidney failure and life expectancy among people with chronic kidney diseases are not only unique within Canada but also pioneering work internationally. Turin’s work regarding the progression in kidney disease contributed heavily to the international collaboration on chronic kidney disease guideline preparation.
Turin is active in a variety of community and cultural organizations. Outside his professional interests, he enjoys music, cricket, soccer, writing, and spending time with his wife and two sons.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Om Malik
Dr. Om Malik was born in the Northwest part of the Indian subcontinent. With the creation of the new country of Pakistan in 1947, and amid religious violence, he moved as a refugee to the newly independent India at the age of 15.
Om immigrated to Canada in 1966, upon the suggestion of a friend from Edmonton. He joined the recently established University of Calgary in 1968 and was involved in teaching, research and administration until his formal retirement in 1997.
Om has conducted pioneering research on adaptive and artificial-intelligence-based controllers for use in electric power systems. Close to 100 students have successfully completed their degrees under his supervision. He has published more than 350 papers in reputed international journals, and has presented more than 360 papers at conferences. He has one book, seven book chapters, and more than 50 other publications to his credit. His scientific contributions are well known internationally, and his work has led to collaborative research with a number of research groups in several countries.
Om is an exemplary and internationally respected engineer, researcher, scholar, and administrator. He gives back to his community as a committed volunteer with Historica Canada’s Passages Canada initiative, which gives speakers from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to share their stories of immigration and culture with youth and newcomers.
Organizational Diversity Award: Cargill Meat Solutions High River
Diversification of personnel is considered a valuable asset by those corporations looking to expand their workforce, but at Cargill Foods in High River, it is more than just finding international employees with the best toolkit of skills: it is also about creating a vigorous and harmonious work community out of hundreds of employees with different backgrounds, languages, and customs, and giving them every opportunity to learn and flourish in a new country.
Cargill’s positive environment of inclusiveness and safe, stable and secure employment draws foreign workers to the company. Once past the interview stage in their home country that assesses qualifications, attitudes and expectations, the chosen applicants, who must qualify under existing federal, territorial and provincial legislation, are flown to Canada at Cargill’s expense as temporary foreign workers. However, there is an understanding that once a successful contract period has ended, Cargill will support an application for permanent residency for those who wish to stay.
Cargill offers consistent and ongoing support for all employees both on and off the job; partnerships with Immigrant Services Calgary and other local organizations who assist with individual settlement needs; family and multicultural social functions; physical fitness programs on site, and a health office. Cargill also extends its care to the larger community of High River. It donated food to the town during the catastrophic flood of 2013, fund-raises for charitable causes like the United Way, supports local schools that their employees’ children attend, and generally acts as a good corporate citizen of the community, the province and the nation.
Youth Scholarship Awards
Chuyang (Aaron) Lin
Chuyang (Aaron) Lin immigrated to Canada with his mother in 2006, leaving his friends and family behind in China. Like many other immigrants, his family struggled for the first few years but, through all the economic and social hardships, Aaron saw his education as a priority. Now in Grade 11, Aaron has secured a research internship with the University of Calgary Faculty of Science, has a 97 per cent grade average and is an International Baccalaureate student with hopes of becoming a cystic fibrosis researcher.
Aaron’s leadership was sparked during a social studies class about underdeveloped countries. At that point he realized that many countries in the world do not have the privilege that Canada does. Poverty and social injustices were widespread around the world, and he wanted to make a global impact. He first began by volunteering with several local organizations in Calgary, such as Youth Volunteer Corps, Youth Central, and Canadian Blood Services. It was through World Vision that he volunteered abroad and built a house for a needy family in the Dominican Republic. Upon his return, Aaron established a Calgary Youth Committee for World Vision International and now oversees this committee where youth congregate to generate an impact in our world. At this point, he believes that helping others to overcome poverty is not a matter of charity, but a matter of justice.
Sarthak Sinha is a Grade 12 student who has received significant academic and professional success at an early age. Recognized in Avenue magazine’s Top 40 under 40, Youth in Motion’s Top 20 under 20, and awarded the Neuroscience Prize at the American Academy of Neuroscience, Sarthak has already made an impact in the field of stem cells and neurobiology. When Sarthak was younger, his aunt underwent open-heart surgery to end years of suffering from a heart condition. This fueled his motivation to work towards something that wasn’t a short-term solution, and science became that vehicle.
At 14, he wrote countless emails to professors until he landed a spot in Dr. Jeff Biernaskie’s University of Calgary laboratory to study regeneration after severe trauma. He is now investigating one of the fundamental questions in stem cell research, namely: how are adult stem cells able to “communicate” through signaling mechanisms? His research has uncovered innovative ways of dealing with such traumas. Sarthak’s journey includes working with Multiple Sclerosis Canada, which has in turn led to work on policy making that can change the way people receive insurance benefits. His efforts have been recognized with the title of National Ambassador. Sarthak has also represented the Calgary region at the national and international level, receiving a silver medal at the Canada Wide Science Fair in 2011, and representing Team Canada and receiving third place at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair where he was among the top 18 high school students in Canada.
Simei (Amy) Li
At 10 years of age, Simei (Amy) Li immigrated to Canada with her parents from China. After seeing her grandfather struggle with Parkinson’s disease, she became interested in studying how diseases manifest in the healthy brain. Since doing her first research project in high school she has received four scholarships to continue her neuroscience studies at the University of Calgary, where she is currently a second-year student with a top GPA. In 2013, Amy worked with a postdoctoral researcher at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary, studying how stress contributes to neurodegenerative diseases.
In addition to Amy’s academic achievements she has a passion for helping others, first volunteering as a ConnecTeen volunteer at Distress Centre Calgary. She then founded the Distress Centre on Campus Club at her university and created awareness events such as the Outrun the Stigma – the first run of its kind in western Canada. Amy has since been invited to speak at the 2014 Canadian Conference of Student Leadership and has co-founded the Brain2Brain initiative to inspire greater interest in the field of neuroscience. Through this initiative Amy has formed partnerships with organizations like Family Place, Between Friends Club of Calgary, and Calgary Public Library. As someone who had to adapt to life in a foreign country, Amy learned the importance of taking steps outside of her comfort zone, which has given her the courage to follow her passion and initiate support issues she feels strongly about.
Sujay Nagaraj emigrated from India to Canada with his family in 1999. His educational success story was bolstered by the enrichment programs offered by Calgary Board of Education and its inquiry-encouraging environment, including the project-based learning program offered by Gifted and Talented Education (GATE). Exposure to the Calgary Youth Science Fair also offered a channel for Sujay’s intellectual discovery.
In subsequent years, Sujay became involved in scientific, inquiry-based, solutions to problems he saw. He pursued solutions ranging from oil-sands remediation to incurable brain tumors, winning many accolades at city, provincial, national and international levels for his work. Awards include the Lafarge Science, Society and Technology award at the Calgary Youth Science Fair (2010), gold and silver medals at the Canada Wide Science Fair (2011,2012), and second place at Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Alberta (2013).
Sujay has an innate desire to make the world around him a better place by solving some of our most urgent issues. His quest for knowledge continues in his research at the University of Calgary in the field of Oncology.
As a child in China, Jiani Deng was not exposed to the hardships that she came to know after moving to Canada with her parents at age six. The sudden shift in culture and socio-economic status forced her to understand just what her parents had sacrificed to provide a successful future for their family. The three of them squeezed into a tiny, dilapidated basement room located in an area with lower socio-economic status. A fast-dwindling bank account forced Jiani and her family to reduce everything to the bare minimum. While her parents were working multiple jobs just to make ends meet, Jiani began to see things more clearly.
Throughout her short time in Canada, Jiani has not only proved her potential academically, she has also played a vital role in her community. By taking part in a variety of clubs, including the Youth Earth Ambassadors steering committee, Model UN, Earth Club, and many others, Jiani developed a keen interest in her community and those in it. For Jiani, success equals accomplishment more in abstract than concrete terms. She believes her success comes from being open to the many and diverse cultures that Canada offers and overcoming the linguistic, cultural and economic difficulties through a positive and humble attitude.