Interview with CAHCF Executive Director, Soulafa Al-Abbasi
CANMORE & AREA HEALTH CARE FOUNDATION
A Q&A with foundation leaders across Alberta
This month, we’re excited to highlight Soulafa Al-Abbasi, Executive Director of Canmore & Area Health Care Foundation. Soulafa brings over 10 years of experience in capacity building, strategic planning, program development and non-profit management to her role. Prior to joining the Foundation, she worked with Canmore Folk Music Festival Society, Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia, International Ocean Institute of Canada, Fusion Halifax and the Aga Khan Foundation. She has also served on the Canmore Business and Tourism Board, and was a member of the Bow Valley Immigration Partnership employment and social integration committees. We recently asked Soulafa about her background and thoughts on leadership.
AS A CHILD, WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GREW UP AND WHY?
I still think of this question often as I continue to grow professionally! I’ve always wanted to work with people, organizations and causes that have a big impact, so I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to be in the non-profit sector. I did go through various phases as a child, but I knew I always wanted a career in this sector.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO PURSUE A CAREER IN HEALTHCARE PHILANTHROPY?
I decided to pursue a career in healthcare philanthropy because of the importance my community places on health and wellness. I’ve lived in many places, but I think Canmore has a special kind of attitude towards work-life balance. It was also an opportunity for me to work with a brilliant, visionary board and to work with the amazing leadership at the hospital. It’s quite inspiring to be a part of that team and contribute to their work.
I’ve also had the opportunity to work in places that aren’t as fortunate as we are in Canada and don’t have accessible healthcare. In this position, I have the ability to support a system that values accessible, quality healthcare for all. If I can play a small part in that, it makes me wake up every morning with a sense of purpose.
WHAT DOES BEING A LEADER IN THE PHILANTHROPIC SECTOR MEAN TO YOU?
To me, being a leader in this sector means you need to be a good listener. You’re always aligning interests and connecting the dots between what will make donors happy and where do they want their donations to go, while still meeting the needs of the local hospital and making the biggest impact out of donations.
I think it’s also about always finding opportunities where others may not see them. In this sector, you’re always looking for resources and building partnerships. You always need to be strategic and resourceful with your partnerships to maximize the resources you have.
WHAT BOOK IS CURRENTLY ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND?
I currently have tons and tons of bedtime storybooks right now for my kid, Nuri, who’s one – Dr. Suess, The Little Prince and Goodnight Moon. So there’s that, then there are my books! I’m a fiction reader and I’m just starting a book by my favourite author, Orhan Pamuk called The Red-Haired Woman. There is a combination of my literature, along with my kid’s books at the moment!
WHAT EXCITING INITIATIVES ARE COMING UP AT THE CANMORE & AREA HEALTH CARE FOUNDATION?
We’re in a good position, and have been establishing many local partnerships. Our foundation recently received a grant from AHS for high potential projects and with those funds, we’re able to create different marketing activities and initiatives. First off, we’ll be partnering with local media and doing a three-day ‘takeover,’ where we’re basically taking over a radio station, their website and their Facebook page. We’ll take that opportunity to talk about philanthropy, healthcare, what we do at Canmore & Area Care Health Foundation and how much Albertans give back. We’re also revamping our website, which we’re launching in the fall. We’re really looking forward to that!
Events wise, we’re focusing on donor appreciation socials. Every time we change the theme to make it fun. Our next one will be a high tea theme! We also have our direct mail campaign coming up and our golf tournament. There are many programs at the hospital happening right now that we’ve funded as well. Most recently, the OMA (Opening Minds through Art) program which is offered to long-term care patients. There is a lot going on!
IF YOU COULD SHARE A PIECE OF ADVICE WITH YOUR FOUNDATION COLLEAGUES, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
As a group, I think we need to find spaces where we can sit down and share best practices. I think of us as one big team working towards the same goals, and there is a tremendous benefit in sharing best practices, developing strategic partnerships and finding opportunities to work together. We’re leading the way in healthcare philanthropy, so let’s find out how we can continue to raise the bar and build capacity in the sector so that we can meet the needs of all Albertans.