Soulafa Al-Abbasi is the kind of young person Nova Scotia needs – passionate, educated and ambitious. She is committed to staying here but must explain this frequently to former classmates who left to work elsewhere. Why has she chosen to stay? “It’s the passion, resilience, determination, and creativity that young professionals are bringing to the table. The young leaders who are making waves are my source of inspiration, driving me to make this a better place.”
Soulafa is committed to community – especially through Fusion, a youth organization focused on improving city life. She initiated their diversity photo contest, was Director, Immigration and Diversity and is now Vice-Chair. Her community credentials seem endless and she admits that sleeping is low on her list. She is a board member of Credit Union Atlantic and is the Atlantic youth representative for Passages to Canada. She was until recently Regional Coordinator for the UN Association of Canada and served on the Board of Nova Scotia-Gambia Association. Volunteering permits Soulafa to show her talents, learning that working here is about connections. “You have to be proactive, shape your path and keep going.”
Soulafa earned her Master of Development Economics from Dalhousie University after arriving in 2003. She is well traveled — born in Damascus, Syria, went to high school in Saudi Arabia and received her Bachelor of Arts in Economics in Egypt. “Halifax was different for me – small and laid back and I didn’t know anyone.” She worked at a call centre and was involved with the Canadian Red Cross University Club and the Graduate Economics Students Association. Because her mother, now in Montreal, was an Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia student, Soulafa volunteered for four years as a Diversity Facilitator doing community outreach. As part of her university studies, she analyzed the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia language program. For her thesis she worked with a local micro-finance organization in the slums of Cairo on a nine-month Aga Khan Fellowship. She then worked at the International Ocean Institute Canada at Dalhousie, coordinating courses for international students.
You have to be proactive, shape your path and keep going.
Soulafa’s spirit and skills have been evident at Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia as Community Capacity Building Coordinator –creating events and workshops – and then as Employment Specialist. “I love the client stories. I like to create a space for conversation and partnerships. I provide valuable information and I take something out of it.” She is especially proud of her efforts with engineers in the Internationally Educated Bridging Program. They now work in a three to six-month placement program toward their licensing requirements. “I love working at Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia. I call us Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotiaonians, as we’re a living community.” Her commitment to immigration is equally strong. “We’re building a global economy through immigrants bringing with them their networks – and all that innovation and creativity.”