How Mae Chun dedicated almost three decades serving seniors and immigrants

May is Asian Heritage Month. To celebrate, CBC Calgary is highlighting the rich heritage and contributions of Asian Calgarians through a series of 10 profiles throughout the month. We welcomed nominations of diverse individuals with different goals and interests, and a common commitment to giving back to the community. Through an internal voting process, CBC Calgary staff selected the Asian Changemakers for 2022 and asked them each to write a self-profile. Here is the latest, from Mae Chun:

I am an immigrant from Malaysia and in all our time here, Canada has given us every opportunity and freedom to make a good life for ourselves, and we have. For that, I have spent the last 28 years giving back to a country that has given us so much. I have spent most of my career here in social services, and currently I am co-CEO of MPC Foundation, a registered charity that works hard to reduce social isolation for all seniors.

I am of Chinese descent but because my childhood environment was deeply multicultural, I was brought up to embody cultures that are Chinese, South Indian and Malay. Even as a young child, I remember the excitement of celebrating Chinese New Year at the beginning of the year, visiting Muslim friends to mark the end of Ramadan in April or May and then looking forward to spending Diwali (Deepavali) with South Asian friends in October. I grew up with an innate appreciation of the mosaic of cultures that enrich our lives on a daily basis.

Don’t wait for the perfect time to create change. Do good today and do good now. The rest will take care of itself.- Mae Chun– Mae Chun

Of all the years I have lived in this country, I spent almost 20 years serving immigrants in the community and in the last 5 years, my focus has shifted to mobilizing community resources to lift seniors out of social isolation and providing opportunities to facilitate their participation in community life. I did not set out to be a change maker. Instead I saw a growing societal problem and set out to do something about it. 

The nature of my work with seniors has given me a front row seat to witness what the aging population faces on a daily basis — the loss of employment and income, waning independence, loss of self-esteem and a future that is filled with uncertainties, especially on the health front. While none of those concerns can be dismissed, they can be mitigated by belonging to a community of peers who are welcoming and inclusive and where lived experiences can be shared. That’s the essence of what I do everyday, that is, empowering older adults and seniors to create a life that is meaningful for them.

I am proud of the values that I was brought up with, such as loyalty, hard work, being kind to others and respect for our elders. Although my heritage is Chinese, having lived and travelled much of the world, I have come to realize that these values are shared by many cultures and that these values are the foundation of meaningful success in life. As someone famously said, “There’s more that unites us than divides us.”

“I am proud of the values that I was brought up with, such as loyalty, hard work, being kind to others and respect for our elders,” says Chun. (Esther Cho Photography/CBC)

One of the values that we inherit from our ancestors is the belief in self-reliance, that is, we live and die by our very own efforts, and it is this belief that motivates me to work hard to achieve a successful life in Canada. Like most Asian families, there was huge emphasis on education in our family and with that comes the pressure of not just doing well in school, but the push to excel in academics. Living in Canada has moderated my views somewhat and I began to see the pursuit of education not just as a ticket to a high paying job but to appreciate education as a journey that enriches our mind, our worldview and its influence on our critical thinking faculties. It is the ultimate gift that keeps on giving.

I have lived in Calgary for about 25 years and have seen this place grow exponentially. Yet, Calgary remains a family-friendly city that is affordable to live in and has so much potential for greater things to come. One of the key changes we need to see in Calgary is in having a more extensive public transportation network. This will create more connectivity among its citizens and will play a critical role toward reducing social isolation for all, not just the elderly population.

The impact that I have been able to create in the community is not the result of my solitary effort, but the combined effort and passions of a community willing to come together to embrace, care for and respect the seniors in our communities. When community members are willing to brave –40 degree temperatures in the winter to deliver care bags to seniors in need, I am moved beyond words, and it is such selfless sacrifices of everyday citizens that motivate me each and every day.

View Source