Why Meenakshi Lamba finds fulfillment in helping newcomers

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 Meenakshi Lamba:

I am an Immigrant, originally from India and moved to Canada 20 years ago. I work with Immigrant Services Calgary to help newcomer immigrants unleash their potential to settle in Canada. I am very passionate about helping people and find it very fulfilling. I am a huge believer in being a part of the community to help people. 

In the course of my work, I see a many new immigrants and help them with employment resources to assist them in gaining meaningful employment and establishing their careers. I work with them on an individual basis to help draft their resumes, prepare for job interviews, establish professional networks, and most importantly, boost their morale. 

As Mother Teresa said, “Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.” When newcomers come to Canada, they feel lonely as they leave their family and friends behind.

On top of that, if they cannot find meaningful work, this challenge becomes bigger. The inability or delay in finding meaningful work has a cascading effect on all aspects of an immigrant’s life. It can lead to financial hardship, which exacerbates their anxiety and stress, which in turn affects their self-esteem. They need support — not only with their job search but with their mental health, too.

Lamba strives to live by her grandmother’s words of wisdom: ‘When you are helping someone with your right hand, your left hand should not know.’ (Esther Cho Photography/CBC)

In addition to helping them find employment, I also connect them to other support services. Thus, I have adopted a holistic approach in helping newcomer immigrants. Coming from India, which is a multicultural and multilingual country, I can easily relate to immigrants who come from diverse Asian cultures and ethnicity. I connect them to my professional network that I built over the years, so that they may get the guidance and mentorship to ease their way to employment success. My motto is to help the newcomers make Canada their new home.

As an Asian who comes from a collectivist culture, I believe that the happiness and wellbeing of the society is deeply interconnected with the wellbeing of its individual members. My Asian heritage teaches me to help others without expecting anything in return. My grandmother used to say, “When you are helping someone with your right hand, your left hand should not know.” Little things that bring a smile to the faces of newcomers make my day. When helping newcomers, I do not restrict it to employment, but I help them with settlement too. I connect with my heart and they become like my family after a little while, and are able to share all their achievements and sorrows with me. My Asian heritage taught me to help people selflessly, and I am proud of it.

I grew up under the guidance of two strong women — my grandmother and my mother. I inherited their values of being kind, empathetic, honest and hardworking, and that makes me who I am today. My mother was progressive and way ahead of her time. In a time when women were limited to being homemakers, she saw to it that I was educated and encouraged me to pursue my desired career. She taught me to be a visionary, and not let society dictate what I can and cannot do. She was not only a mentor to me, but for a lot of my friends, too. In the times when women were not working, she started her own business and employed hundreds of women. She supported me and my siblings equally, giving us all equal opportunities for education. This has made me who I am today. 

I was taught as a kid to help anyone without any bias, which I still follow. I still remember my mom used to take us to the orphanage or a school for the blind to volunteer as a kid. That made us value everything we had. Coming from a middle-class family, I saw my mom work very hard to support my dad and the family. This made me realise hard work and determination are the keys to success. As an immigrant in Canada, we worked very hard to establish ourselves and be in a position to help others. I am grateful for every opportunity to help people. 

Once I help someone, and they become successful and come back to say, “I want to do something for you,” I always encourage them to help three other newcomers and keep the chain going.– Meenakshi Lamba

Diversification in the industry is needed to make this province self-sustain and attract diverse talents. Alberta has relied on oil and gas all this time, but we need to bring in new industries and open new channels for immigrants. We need to bring the immigrants with new skill sets, like technology, to come to Calgary.

Another change I wish to see is an increase in community support. More funding needs to be provided for community support. We are bringing refugees from other countries and they need support to settle initially. We need to enable them to be successful and integrate into Canadian society quickly. We need better programs to support this. 

What I would say to others is to be true to yourself, be empathetic to others in order to be an influential changemaker. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and connect with them. If you are connected, you will be able to bring about a change for them. Once I help someone, and they become successful and come back to say, “I want to do something for you,” I always encourage them to help three other newcomers and keep the chain going. I believe this is how we will make a strong community and a strong nation.

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