Aisha Zaman is a feminist, political junkie, food and wine enthusiast, and an activist. She joined Next Up as a participant in 2012 after completing her undergrad at the University of Calgary with a BA in Law and Society. During her years at the UofC she was involved in social justice causes related to the rights of children, Muslims, and First Nations in Canada. After finishing Next Up, Aisha organized a feminist book club with other Next Up participants and friends in order to give them a safe space to discuss the world through a feminist lens and be critical.
Aisha strongly believes in participating in democracy to shape better policies by being involved in campaigning and through political parties. Since the Harper government’s second win, she has been involved in every election Calgary has been effected by. She is most interested in policies around Climate Change, First Nations, and Immigration. Aisha studied Immigration Law through the University of British Columbia in 2015, and became a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC) in 2016. She also joined the Next Up staff in 2016 by becoming a Program Assistant for the Climate Leadership Program (CLP) which ran throughout Alberta for it’s first year. Sadly, Aisha won’t be able to work on the second year, as she is moving to Ottawa in the summer of 2017 to gain more work experience in the public sector.
When Aisha is not working on the aforementioned activities, she enjoys dining at restaurants with a local ingredient mandate and who serve natural wines, spending time in yoga studios, and running.
Born in the bustling city of Karachi, Pakistan, Sarah moved with her family to Kuwait when she was two years old. She was with her mother visiting family in Pakistan, when life in this sleepy desert country changed in the summer of 1990 with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. History records this period as the “Gulf War”, a victorious time for those whose political agendas were achieved at the expense of a paltry few… thousands. This was a particularly harrowing experience for a little girl at risk of losing her father in the crossfire. Miraculously, after months of no contact her father finally reunited with the family. Whenever despondency overcomes her, Sarah reminds herself of this difficult time in her life and centres herself with gratitude.
From sandstorms to snowstorms, from plus 50 C to minus 30 C, Sarah has adjusted well to life in Calgary since moving here from Kuwait in 1997. Having pursued her BA in Economics and English at the University of Calgary, Sarah is looking to combine her love for activism and writing through citizen journalism. Fortunately as Program Assistant at the Consortium for Peace Studies, she is never lacking in inspiration meeting esteemed rabble-rousers from around the world. Her commitment to Project Ploughshares Calgary, as well as the Calgary Centre for Global Community also affords her this opportunity.
Presently, the relentless US drone attacks plaguing Northwest Pakistan and Afghanistan, at a rate of every four days since 2004, is an issue of particular concern to Sarah. A citizen of the former, her ancestral roots are in the latter. The morbid picture of dehumanised pilots effecting devastation from the comfortable confines of a remote air-force base in Nevada, contrasted against the dark shadowy outline of drones hovering over the terrified civilians beneath, is one she finds especially disquieting.
For Nathan, life is enriched by edges, change and diversity. Edges locate and define. Change creates the constant gift of choice. Diversity provides the distinction to notice beauty. Edges, change and diversity are the glue that holds together a just and resilient society – providing structure, malleability and tolerance. Nathan seeks to deepen justice and resilience.
Nathan was raised in Alberta. He’s worked many jobs over the years: environmental educator, mountain guide, youth worker, construction worker and lawn mower. He has held (paid) jobs milking red squirrels in the Yukon, chasing wolves in the Rockies and enumerating a threatened bird species in the south of France. More recently, Nathan assisted the State of Maryland and the City of Durban, South Africa integrate climate adaptation into their long-term planning, held an internship with UNESCO in Paris looking at the transfer of social science knowledge to Southern academics and policymakers, and assessed the business case of a biofuel stove distribution network in Maharastra, India.
He has a BSc in Environmental and Conservation Sciences from the University of Alberta and a Master Degree in City Planning from MIT. Nathan is currently a Senior Policy Analyst at the Pembina Institute where he works largely on oilsands policy. In his spare time, Nathan like to run, backcountry ski, rock climb and is actively involved in his church where he chairs their social justice committee.
Leah is a Calgary born community organizer and activist who is passionate about eradicating poverty, gender inequities and systems of oppression. She would like to see a society where everyone has equitable access to resources and opportunities. After spending a number of years on the ground as a registered community development social worker for a grassroots, feminist organization in Calgary, Leah decided to pursue a master’s degree in public policy. She is currently attending Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.
Leah spends a lot of her free time giving back to her community by volunteering for local awareness raising initiatives and political campaigns. In most recent years Leah has been a volunteer member of the Calgary Dyke March Committee and the Coming Out Monologues – YYC.
Leah has stayed connected to the Next Up network as an alumni by facilitating sessions on women & poverty, coaching current participants and volunteering for the Calgary Next Up Advisory Network.
In her travels, Leah has spent short stints immersed in both Spanish and French speaking communities and continues to work on improving her skills in both languages. In her spare time, you might find Leah riding her bike, bird-watching or reading historical fiction with a nice hot cup of coffee.
James Nguen is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan and a member of South Sudan community in Calgary, Alberta. Mr. Nguen earned a Diploma in liberal Art, Mount Royal University 2008 and B.A in Development Studies at the University of Calgary 2010.
Mr. Nguen is the founder of the Biluany Water and Literacy Society, co-founder of the “Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan Association of Calgary” and a subject of the Award Winning documentary “The Long Journey Home of James Nguen.” Mr. Nguen is a Public Speaker and a fierce advocate of world peace and child rights to education. He was featured in “Avenue Magazine 2008” Advocate Newspaper 2009 and University of Calgary’s U Magazine 2011.”
Currently, Mr. Nguen works as a School Support Counsellor at the Calgary Board of Education in partnership with the Wood’s Home. On a voluntarily bases, Mr. Nguen is a Chief Executive Director of Biluany Water and Literacy Society and External Relations officer for the South Sudan Civil Society for Development.
In the past two years, Mr.Nguen spoke in well over 256 social events and facilitated dozen forums across Alberta. For example, Nguen spoke in Teacher’s Conventions, symposiums, Schools, Organizations’ conferences, Churches, Ted Calgary and recently at the Grant Macwan University on United Nation Day.
Mr. Nguen came to Canada as a refugee South Sudan on September 26, 2001, fifteen years after he was forced to leave his homeland at the age of seven. Mr. Nguen story provides a psychological, social, political and cultural context for the understanding of the refugee experiences and the impact of conflict on human populations. From South Sudan to Calgary, Alberta Canada, he has endured and overcome incredible hardship that is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.
Born an island-girl, raised a Calgarian, Firyal finds herself motivated by understanding interconnectedness...on every level- personal, spiritual, professional and environmental. It’s taken her to three continents to explore conservation, climate justice, peace building and community economic development. At the intersection where these seemingly unrelated compartments merge, she has witnessed creativity, collaboration and transformation emerge.
Fundamentally, Firyal believes that the well being of one is embedded in the well being of all; this drives her quest for knowledge, engagement in her community and a desire to build truly meaningful relationships that transform our own inner lives and the communities around us. Her nine-to-fiver is at a local social enterprise, giving loans to new immigrants to help them find meaningful employment. After five, she’s probably volunteering at some community ‘thing’, pondering life’s truth over a cuppa tea, listening to a good beat or enjoying silence.
Daniel Pagan is a radical pragmatist with a strong interest in human rights. Born in Muscat, Oman, Pagan considers himself a world traveler; someone who loves learning something new every day and challenges himself to improve his weaknesses.
At the University of Calgary, he did a double major in Classical Studies and Law/Society interdisciplinary, as well as served as an advocate for affordable education and better accessibility for students with disabilities in the Students Union and the Gauntlet newspaper. Daniel has a thirst for learning new things and how the world works. He has a huge curiosity in regards to fixing the system and just can’t help but ask questions and “poke the bear” with a dose of wit and sarcasm.
Due to his deafness, his eyes are open to how minority groups have to struggle and fight for rights,in spite of privileged backgrounds. He is planning on applying to law schools in the future to study human rights law and to fight against inequality.
Daniel joined NextUp out of a desire to learn more about how to improve his advocacy and outreach. If he is not busy with law school prep or writing, he loves to read variety of work based on religion, politics, economics, history, etc or fiction and graphic novels for fun with a cold bottle of Imperial Pale Ale beer or plays with his pet beagle, Buddy.
After seven years taking in the west coast, Cat has recently made a home for herself in Calgary. Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Ontario, she spent her days dancing, drawing, painting, challenging assumptions and contemplating a better world.
These interests initially drew Cat to Victoria, BC where she studied Political Science and Applied Ethics at UVic; however, it was the sense of community and examples of strength surrounding her that compelled her to stay. This time informed her enthusiasm for community development and the pursuit of more just, loving and sustainable ways of being. Through her work and involvement in the community, she has strived to support efforts that bridge individual experiences with injustice to social, political and economic policies and barriers that impact society, and organize collaboratively to achieve meaningful systemic change.
Cat currently works at the YWCA of Calgary as Coordinator, Quality Assurance, supporting the agency’s service programs in evaluating and communicating the impact of their work. Previously, she has held positions as an outreach organizer, leadership development facilitator, server and bartender. Her pass times continue to include painting, drawing and reading; although, Cat spends most of her time these days with her exploring the offerings of her new home.
Barend is passionate about building a sustainable society that does not rely on fossil fuels and that promotes healthy, sustainable life-styles. He understands that the problems we face in society are multi-dimensional. With the Earth’s population surpassing 7 billion people, 1/3 of these people living in poverty and growing, and the world un-able to control present rates of consumption, there exist very obvious reasons to drive change.
Barend realizes change through his work with Engineers Without Borders in the Corporate Engagement Team; coordinating the Urban Energy Diet Challenge as part of the Energy Diet Challenge Program in partnership with Canadian Geographic and Shell Canada; and promoting the bicycle as a primary mode of transport in Calgary through the Tour de Nuit Society.
Taking a leap from Calgary to Africa, The Run to End Poverty is Barend’s biggest investment in energy yet. The run is aimed to engage with the active running community in Calgary, linking international development, fundraising and behaviour change in one exciting event. Barend looks forward to leading this event through to a second successful year.
In his spare time, nothing comes close to the feeling of awe and adventure in the great outdoors. Hiking, backpacking, cycling (and bike touring), rock, ice climbing, ski touring… you name it, he does it. Barend is a trip leader with the Alpine Club of Canada and thoroughly enjoys sharing his experiences outside.
Barend is excited to work with all of the NextUp participants to make this world a better place starting with local initiatives that drive global change.