How Sangeeta Sharma helps immigrant women with career opportunities
Sharma runs a cosmetology college and provides scholarships to women who were victims of human trafficking
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 Sangeeta Sharma:
I am a human first and I like to connect with other people on a deeper level. I believe I am kind, blessed and a go-getter who follows her dreams. My name is Sangeeta Sharma and I am the president of NIWE Academy and a mother of two blessed kids. I am from India and I identify as Indian Canadian, and a Hindu as well.
My love for my community is huge. I like to keep myself involved in any way I can. Upon my arrival in Canada in 1992, I was involved in with the Indian community here. I used to teach Hindi to the Indian kids at the local Hindu temple when my children were young.
I also used to volunteer and help with the community kitchen, and I enjoy participating in volunteer work wherever it is needed. I am always there to lend a hand to whoever needs it.
I have a soft spot for immigrant women; I always try to give them a chance with jobs and training in the beauty industry to help them with their careers. I helped women open their own spas from their basement and help support their kids without putting them in daycare — like I did!
I come from an old-world culture and heritage. I feel proud that I belong to the culture that has given so much wisdom to the world. I am proud of the Ayurvedic traditions and Hindu religion. I love that we celebrate and acknowledge the sun, moon, air, water, plants, earth and animals — and we pray to our elders, especially our parents. We pray to what gives us life and recognize that life is precious. On top of that, I love Indian food, clothing, dance, music, festivals, weddings — thinking of all of that gives me an enormous amount of happiness!
What I have learned is that if you want to see change, it's up to you to become involved in it. When I came here in 1992, Calgary felt like a very small village to me. People here didn't know anything about spices and we used to get weird looks whenever we wore our Indian clothes. That is when I decided we need to bring some colour and Indian vibes to Calgary. That is when I involved myself with the Hindu temple and I started teaching Hindi to the kids. My hope was that my kids must know where I am coming from. We will encourage young families to get involved.
I am not going to lie, I came from a hugely populated city, New Delhi, where competition was huge. If you don't fight for what you want, you will be left behind. It is in my DNA to fight for things that I want.
I came from a country where the literacy rate was very low. I have seen my mom helping women to write their signatures on legal papers. She would go to villages and teach women how to read and write. She would teach mothers not to let their daughters get married in early age. So my upbringing gave me that edge to help people. That is what I started to do.
Respect and acceptance for each other is what I would like to see in Calgary in the coming years. The world is going through rough and divisive time. Now is the time to come together and rise above the hate and search for commonalities among each other. Our Calgary is a brighter place when we share and recognize everyone's uniqueness and colour.
It's everyone's responsibility to make a change. Especially the younger generation needs to come forward with new and budding ideas.
And the older generation needs to make room for these people, listen to them, try and understand where they are coming from and do everything in their power to help them.