Rise Awards

Recognizing Immigrant Success in Edmonton (RISE) Awards

The 2022 RISE Awards celebration was presented by:


EMCN celebrated with all our 2022 Rise Award Recipients, Partners and Sponsors on Friday, May 6, 2022.

Have a question about the RISE Awards?
Contact us at rise@emcn.ab.ca

RISE Collage Graphic


We are so appreciative of the generous support of our sponsors and community. To get involved as an event sponsor for the EMCN RISE Awards, please contact Austin Ritchie directly at aritchie@emcn.ab.ca.

Follow the RISE Awards at @YEGnewcomers | #RISEAwards | 2022RISEAwards


In 2003, the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers (EMCN) began the tradition of celebrating the outstanding accomplishments of newcomers, immigrants, individuals and local organizations for their commendable service to building strong communities through social, cultural and economic development.

Newcomers form the foundation that supports a stronger and healthier community. EMCN’s Recognizing Immigrant Success in Edmonton (RISE) Awards recognizes newcomers, businesses, employers and social service organizations who demonstrate outstanding commitments to creating a more welcoming and inclusive community for all.

It is an inspirational and memorable evening enriched with culture, live musical performances, multicultural dinner buffet, and award presentations to our most distinguished community members.

Last year, 2021, marked EMCN’s 40th milestone anniversary as an organization, which we will also celebrate at the event. The RISE Awards ceremony will be recorded and shared broadly after the event to highlight some of the impacts EMCN has made through four decades of community building.

Congratulations to the 2021/2022 RISE Award Recipients!

This award will recognize an immigrant who demonstrates a remarkable commitment to community engagement, with the goal of creating a more welcoming and inclusive community for all.

Congratulations to: Hayat El-Ossmani, B-Smart Learning Centre

(From the Nominator) On September 18, 2001, my parents arrived to the land of Canada as immigrants from Lebanon . At that time, I was almost 2 years old. She was, and still is, the strongest woman I ever known who challenges the unknown and keeps spreading positivity,encouragement and support to everyone. All what she cared about, at that time, was to find a land she and my dad can gift us to call home as my dad was a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon who was not allowed, like all the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, to earn the Lebanese citizenship.

Since the minute my mom stepped on this land, she started being involved in many community events and contributions to the needy people, the women, and the children. She is a trusted, dedicated, generous, passionate, sympathetic human who wants to leave a legacy. She is now a proud Canadian Citizen who empowers hundreds of people and educates others about the importance of acceptance, diversity, and social equality.

She is the founder and director of the B-Smart Learning Center; two childcare centers in Edmonton that provide care and education for the children aged 12 months to 12 years. She has also run weekend classes for the children to learn cultural studies and the Arabic language. She organizes tens of community events, volunteers with many non-profit organizations, and always strive to the life betterment of the children, women, and people in need such as the seniors, homeless, and the people who struggle financially to bring food to their table or who can not afford paying the schools tuition fees for their children.

Congratulations to: Nunu Desalgne, Habesha African Market

(From the Nominator) Nunu is nothing short of a volunteer settlement officer in the 107th Avenue area, helping newcomers navigate their way through all the complexities of life in a new land. Her work with African newcomers goes far beyond expectations as the operator of a grocery store in the area. In fact, her business interests seem a second priority to Nunu and her work uplifting the community.

Nunu seems to be blessed with the heart and soul of a true caregiver and leader. When she’s reached out to my office, it’s never been to complain about the still-too-common homelessness and its side effects, crime and disorder. Instead, when we hear from Nunu, it’s typically with a small initiative she’s leading in the 107th Avenue area to uplift the community’s spirits, be it with art, music or food. This is an area, remember, where many Edmontonians fear to tread. Nunu is not only full of grace, but has the heart of a mama lion.

It’s been a tough time for all of us in this pandemic, following on the heels of an economic downturn. What Nunu has taught me is that we truly can work together to uplift an entire community … an entire city. It takes the grace and courage that Nunu exemplifies each and every day. She is a godsend to the people I represent. 

This award will recognize an immigrant youth who demonstrates outstanding initiative in civic engagement on social issues, with the goal of creating a more welcoming and inclusive community for all.

Congratulations to: Cindy Caturao, Canadian Council for Youth Prosperity

(From the Nominator) Many, if all, of Cindy’s works, projects, and initiatives are deep-rooted in the fact that she’s an immigrant. Cindy migrated from the Philippines to Canada in 2007 when she was just 10 years old. Growing up, Cindy has shared with us a few challenges she faced as a young immigrant navigating a new country, language, and people. She is very passionate about ensuring that migrants and newcomers have access to services and the help that they need. She experienced firsthand how difficult it was for her and her parents having to adjust and live in a new country.

Cindy has always been a fervent supporter of the rights and protection of migrant workers here in Alberta. She identified the lack of an easily accessible and comprehensive resource for Temporary Foreign Workers. While doing her internship with ACT Alberta, Cindy saw how unfair the system was to the migrant workers. She wanted to change that and started forming what is now known as Ayulong. Ayulong is a grassroots organization founded by Cindy that advocates for the rights and protection of migrant workers here in Alberta. Ayulong.com is an upcoming comprehensive website where migrant workers and undocumented individuals can access a database regarding their rights, SPOs, and other essential services. Her advocacy and drive do not stop there, this year, Cindy has submitted a policy resolution with the NDP convention and has spoken to two MPs (Jagmeet Singh and Heather McPherson) regarding the possibility of granting migrant workers status upon arrival. Currently, her main focus is advocating for non-discriminatory vaccine allocation for migrant workers.

She served her 2-year term as Youth Councillor with the City of Edmonton, where she advocated for the well-being of young Edmontonians. In addition, Cindy championed diversity and created projects and events that showcased the diverse cultures and arts of young Edmontonians.

This award will recognize an immigrant artist who demonstrates an outstanding commitment of community engagement through arts and culture, with the goal of creating a more welcoming and inclusive community for all.

Congratulations to: Chris Nwoke, Sculpture & Art Teacher

(From the Nominator) Chris is a phenomenal artist/sculptor and art teacher who’s work has impact all over the world. Currently he is a teacher with EPS. I have know Chris for many years and his passion for his craft is unparalleled. In addition to art, Chris quietly works with youth and people with disabilities.

A native of Orogwe in Imo State, Nigeria, O’Chris’ specializes in sculpture and painting. His grandfather, Chief Osai, was a traditional wood carver who used to carve traditional masks. So Chris joined his grandfather to carve masks when he was seven years old. “I picked everything about carving from my grandfather,” he explained.

After his secondary education, he proceeded to a higher institution and acquired Advanced Diploma in Design. In 1988, he established his gallery known as ‘O’Chris Art Gallery’ in Nigeria, where he trained over 100 artists.

“African art will rule the world” was a statement Mr. Chris Nwoke popularly known as O’Chris made many years ago before he thought of travelling abroad. Today, that inspirational and prophetic statement has come true in his life as he is continuously being celebrated as one of the best visual artist and teacher in many parts of the world including Africa, Asia, Europe and North America.

This award will recognize an immigrant who, over a significant period of time, has demonstrated an exceptional commitment of community engagement, with the goal of creating a more welcoming and inclusive community for all.

Congratulations to: Javaid Naqvi, Cameron Developments Corporation

(From the Nominator) Javaid Naqvi has made Edmonton a more cosmopolitan and accepting city through his contributions to immigrant careers, helping immigrants enter politics & developing the built environment in our city. In 1964, at the age of 22, Mr. Javaid A. Naqvi came to Canada on an engineering scholarship, leaving his family and home in Lahore, Pakistan to come to Canada alone to further his educational pursuits. After having difficulty entering the engineering profession, he pivoted to real estate and in 1973 became Vice President of Development at Allarco Developments before venturing out on his own.

In 1980, Mr. Naqvi founded what has now become Cameron Corporation, a privately held real estate and investment company, active in the development of commercial, residential and industrial real estate. Cameron, along with its numerous affiliates, is known in the national real estate development community as the developer of first-class retail and residential projects, of high architectural and aesthetic quality.

Today, Mr. Naqvi’s Cameron Corporation is one of the most active commercial development companies in the Alberta market, with over 8 million square feet of real estate development projects in which the company has participated.

In over 40 years of business, Mr. Naqvi has himself achieved a reputation in the retail development industry as being a forthright person, with an honest approach to his dealings, retaining a very reserved, low-key approach. He is known by numerous and varied industry leaders and retailers, having made long-standing relationships both with retailers and with his development peers.

Mr. Naqvi, has a deep sense of civic responsibility, he has been a supporter of the political electoral process, starting in the 1970’s with the late Mr. Laurence Decore’s successful political career. Since that time, he has had a real passion for encouraging others —especially immigrants— to become involved in the political arena, at the municipal, provincial and federal levels. He has helped immigrants climb the political ladder by providing mentorship, networking opportunities, strategic advice, fundraising support, and more. He has used his considerable business clout to be an effective advocate for minorities in politics.

This award will recognize a group or organization that demonstrates an exceptional commitment to innovative engagement with immigrants, with the goal of creating a more welcoming and inclusive community for all.

Congratulations to: RAJO Project

(From the Nominator) RAJO is a community program that provides support to Somali-Canadian youth and their families. RAJO utilizes a holistic approach to address the cultural, social and economic well-being as well as the personal development of Somali youth, adults and families within Edmonton. Finally, RAJO works to address the well-being and integration of Somali youth and adults within schools and communities through meaningful recreation, cultural activities & transitional employment programs.

RAJO’s work goes above and beyond the standard settlement and integration practices by working to increase awareness about youth health & wellness, positive thinking & effective decision-making, peer relationships, positive parent/child communication & stronger parent-school engagement The work with community engagement is done through outreach workers who constantly promote ongoing dialogue to identify and address issues that impact Somali youth and families. As well, Rajo has a program at Queen Elizabeth school that creates opportunities for individual and group therapy facilitated by clinical counselors that address their emotional, academic and psychological needs. Without a doubt, they are also working to address systemic racism at QE via conversations with students, families and staff members.

This award recognizes an employer who demonstrates an outstanding promise to achieve cultural awareness and appreciation, with the goal of creating a more welcoming and inclusive workplace for immigrants.

Congratulations to: Bilt.

(From the Nominator) Bilt has been an employer partner with the Constructing Futures program since 2019. Since then, they have hosted 4 immigrant professionals in 10-week work experience placements. Their leadership team recognizes the value and strength that diversity adds to an organization; their attitude and partnership with our program has highly demonstrated an appreciation of the skills and experience that immigrants contribute to organizations. They employ talent from all over the world.

Bilt has extended job offers (often even creating brand new roles) to nearly all work experience participants so far in recognition of the value that these professionals add, and to provide opportunity for them to gain more experience and develop themselves professionally.

Bilt, and Jeff Gould specifically, have shown themselves to be real partners with us in recognizing immigrant talent in the workplace, including referring our program to other employers in their network. In a recent meeting debriefing on the most recent work experience participant at Bilt, Jeff reiterated that “a more diverse organization is a stronger organization.”

EMCN Central Office