The Immigrants of Distinction Awards won’t take place until March 9, but that hasn’t stopped the Calgary Herald from recognizing some of the city’s most outstanding individual newcomers. The size of the contributions made by Calgary’s newest citizens can be big or small, but the impact is the same: improving the lives of the Calgarians around them and building a safer, happier, and richer city. Visit the links below to read more about these outstanding individuals in their profiles on the Calgary Herald website:
Andrew Phung, the actor
Andrew Phung is the son of Vietnamese and Chinese immigrants, and from an early age was encouraged to attain a degree in engineering, medicine, or law. And initially Phung did just that, earning a degree in Economics and embarking on a teaching career. But his heart was in acting, and today you can see him on the hit CBC TV show Kim’s Convenience, playing the part of Kimchee, the main character’s best friend.
“When I got the call sheet for this character, it was the first time I read a character that was Asian but had a purpose in the world,” said Phung. “He wasn’t Asian just to be Asian. He wasn’t Asian just to be the friend, or the guy in the office. He had a purpose. It said that he was into basketball, that he runs his mouth a lot, that he was always there for (his friend). I read it and said ‘Oh, I’m Kimchee.’ I felt like I knew this character.”
Dr. Anmol Kapoor, the cardiologist
Dr. Anmol Kapoor is on a mission: improving heart health among the city’s South Asian population, and among immigrant women. ““It is quite difficult and challenging,” he said of raising [heart health] awareness. “Doctors in clinical settings aren’t used to looking at it from the patient’s angle. We’re always giving them advice and treatments but sometimes we fail to understand their background, their ethnicities, their risk factors[…]I want to make them aware earlier, so we can prevent disease and the damage.” Originally from India, Dr. Kapoor has established a clinic in Marlborough, and is working on an app that can help patients with health concerns at home.
Francis Duahn, the entrepreneur
Francis Duahn became a refugee at the age of 12, and would spend the next 15 years learning to survive, as war spread across his native Liberia. Eventually, he found himself among the tiny 1% selected to resettle in Canada, where he would find work picking vegetables and learn English before he began his own shipping business. Today, he is pursuing his Executive MBA, and, as a team member from the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business, even pitched an idea at the United Nations last year. “It was where the decisions were made on my life — where I slept, what I ate, what happened to me. And here I was going from a nobody to having a voice for refugees. And they were listening to me.”
Jean Claude Munyezamu, the coach
Jean Claude Munyezamu is the founder of Soccer Without Boundaries, a sports charity originally founded in Calgary’s’ community of Glenbrook, which has an immigrant population of 24%. Arriving in Calgary from Rwanda, Munyezamu says he understood immediately what it felt like to arrive in a new country without friends or without a good grasp of English: isolating. As a result, he says, many newcomer kids become detached from their parents and find themselves without a sense of belonging or identity in their new home. In order to cope with these feelings, Munyezamu turned to the sport that brought him comfort as a kid in Rwanda: street soccer. “Soccer, you don’t need to speak English,” he says.
The Syrian newcomers who came together to donate blood
More than 80 Syrian newcomers showed up to Canadian Blood Services in Eau Claire on New Year’s Day, rolling up their sleeves to donate blood during a particularly difficult time of year. CIES student Walid Alfalah was among the visitors, saying “When I came [to Canada], all the people helped me. Now, I help all the Canadians because everybody helped me.”