Anila Lee Yuen
Anila Lee Yuen has been a community engagement strategist engaging diverse communities in Alberta for over twenty-two years in various roles. She has a strong background in program development, educational initiatives, and career services.
In Karachi, Pakistan Anila’s father was an assistant headmaster. Her mother was a University Professor. Her Father arrived in Canada in the 1970s and worked as a foreman at Plygem in Forest Lawn. Her mother arrived in 1973 and became the first employee of the Cross Cultural Parenting Program at the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association. She is currently seventy-two and still works part-time in that program that she was instrumental in creating and leading.
‘My parents were very liberal-minded Muslims. They both believed in ensuring my brother and I went to university. I remember my childhood filled with laughter, lots of dancing with my dad, and cuddles with my mom.’
Anila has been volunteering in the community since she was ten years old. Recalling that moment, she said,
‘It was my mother who told me to volunteer. Her friend and colleague was looking for a ten year old to make a speech during citizenship week in 1989. So, I presented. Her friend and colleague was Amal Umar; one of the founders of Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association and many other not-for-profits in Calgary. I am proud to say that Amal took me on as a mentee and both my brother and I as her godchildren.’
Her parents and mentors support and guidance laid the groundwork for her to grow and allowed her potential to flourish, in order for her to become who she is today. Currently, she is the Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for Newcomers. In the 1.25 years that she has been in this role she has lead the agency in correcting a multi-year deficit, increased donations ten-fold, and doubled the number of partnerships with non-settlement agencies.
New programs she has introduced include: the volunteer-led refugee initiative to engage the community in welcoming refugees in a sustainable way, the Orange Ribbon campaign for Refugee Awareness, the Indigenous Education Program (in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s calls to action for newcomers to understand indigenous ways of being,) and the LGBTQ+ New Canadians Resiliency project in partnership with Calgary Outlink.
In 2010, she led the diverse community outreach strategy for the Nenshi Mayoral race campaign. Anila was also on the Public Engagement Committee for 150, the Round Table for ImagineCalgary, and the committee for Pecha Kucha Calgary. She has also served as a member of the South Asian Police Advisory Committee, as a Calgary 2012 Cultural Ambassador, and on the Boards of the Calgary Arts Development Authority, cSPACE, and the Alberta Network of Immigrant Women.
Anila has gone from strength to strength and the value of community is visible from the work she does. In 2012, Anila received the DeVry Inc Award, Pride: Professional Recognition of integrity, Dedication and Excellence. In 2006, Anila was awarded the Alberta Centennial Medallion for Community Service as a commemorative gift from the province for community leaders in volunteerism.
Her continuous efforts reflect her passion to provide sustainable solutions for marginalized groups around the world to live vibrant and healthy lives.