About SAIA

Calgary, Alberta, Canada view from across the Bow River

Mission / Mandate

The annual South Asian Inspirational Awards celebrate and honor individuals who have contributed to positive changes in and/or the South Asian community through life, work, and play, and seek to advance gender equality/equity in the South Asian community in Calgary and surrounding areas.

SAIA

The South Asian Inspirational Awards (SAIA) were born out of a vision to create a platform to promote and celebrate inspiring leaders and role models who contribute to the South Asian community. These awards were conceptualised by a group of like-minded individuals passionate about making positive changes in the community. This group has a demonstrated record of making an impact; one example is the creation and forming the founding board of Punjabi Community Health Services Calgary (PCHS Calgary) in 2014.  In these early years, SAIA’s mandate is to recognize and celebrate role models and change-makers within the South Asian community and allies who contribute to positive changes and significant impact in and for the South Asian community through their life, work and play. 

As SAIA gains recognition, we will continue to use our platform to create awareness of the need to advance and promote gender equality/equity, in the South Asian Community.

Thank You, Calgary for making our Galas a tremendous success!

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Ravi Natt - SAIA Chair

Ravi Natt, Chair

As a long-time advocate of Community Development, Ravi has extensive experience in strategic planning and development of social projects and non- profit organizations. She is the Founding member and former Chair of Wood Buffalo Housing and Development Corp, Founding member and Chair of Punjabi Community Health Services, Calgary and recently the Chair of South Asian Inspiration Awards Society.

Ravi is passionate about community work and has received numerous awards and accolades for her contributions as a volunteer and community advocate. Besides SAIA, she serves as the Chair of Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse and is a member of Calgary Foundation’s Major and Signature Grant Committee.


Meenu Ahluwalia - SAIA Board Member

Meenu Ahluwalia

Meenu has been practicing law since 2000, and currently works at as a litigator at the Department of Justice, complementing her legal work with her community leadership work. She started her community work with being a volunteer lawyer at Calgary Legal Guidance early in her legal career, then serving as a board member with Momentum, a financial literacy and poverty reduction organization from 2009 to 2015. She was a board member of YMCA Calgary since 2015-2022.

Significantly, Meenu was a founding board member and past Chair of Punjabi Community Health Services Calgary, for which over seven years, she worked with like-minded founders to create an organization (inspired by PCHS Ontario) to provide linguistically and culturally appropriate education and social services in the areas of mental health, addiction and family violence to the South Asian community. Being a part of the founding board of SAIA is Meenu’s next community initiative.


Danielle Aubry - SAIA Board Member

Danielle Aubry

Danielle began her career in anti-violence work over 30 years ago as a volunteer and progressed to a variety of positions including educator, shelter worker, and therapist. Currently, she is the Chief Executive Officer of CCASA, founding the agency in 1994. Her work in establishing CCASA as a stable presence in the community earned her national recognition in 1998 when she was awarded one of Canada’s Top 40 under 40 leadership and management awards.

She is also one of the founding members of Punjabi Community Health Services Calgary and served as its Treasurer for five years. She holds Bachelor and Master’s degrees in social work from the University of Calgary. In 2007 she was awarded a Muttart Foundation Fellowship Grant to further her study into forms of consolidation for not-for-profit organizations.


Balwinder Marwaha

Balwinder is a proud Canadian, born and raised in Calgary. He has a passion for the outdoors and of course, ice hockey! Balwinder has been a small business owner for over 20 years, and loves giving back to the community. He is a father of two. Since starting his career as an Orthotics Specialist in 2002, Balwinder has been helping people reach their optimal health.

As a vegan, Balwinder is very health conscious, taking extra effort to really get to know his clients and give them the best service possible. Balwinder served on the board of Punjabi Community Health Services Calgary for four years and led the Fund Development Committee.


Dr Michael Hawley - SAIA Board member

Michael Hawley

Michael Hawley is Associate Professor in Religious Studies at Mount Royal University and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Calgary. He is founding Chair of the Sikh Studies Group at the American Academy of Religion (AAR).

He is the editor of Sikh Diaspora: Theory, Agency, and Experience (Brill 2013), and co-edited with Pashaura Singh Re-imagining South Asian Religions (Brill 2013). Michael is the author of several articles on Sikhism including ‘Sikh Institutions’ in the Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies, as well as encyclopaedia entries and book reviews relating to Sikhism. He is currently working on a major project uncovering the untold stories of the Sikhs in Alberta.


Hardik Pandya

Mr. Hardik Pandya is a seasoned business development and supply chain professional with a decade of expertise in international trade, specializing in mergers and acquisitions, supply chain optimization, and strategic partnerships across diverse sectors including aviation and retail. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in commerce and multiple post-graduate diplomas in International Business Management, Cooperative Management, and Event Management, Hardik exemplifies a commitment to continuous learning. As the visionary founder of Dryleaf, he pioneers sustainable solutions in the plastic utensil industry. Recognized for his efforts, he was nominated for the Clean50 Emerging Leaders award in 2020 and won the South Asian Inspiration accolade in 2022 for his sustainability initiatives. With a history of philanthropic engagement with organizations like UNICEF Canada, Hardik Pandya embodies leadership, innovation, and social responsibility.


Lata Patel, an active contributor to community groups and foundations in Calgary since 1983.

Lata Patel

Lata Patel has been an active contributor to various community groups and foundations since arriving in Calgary in 1983. She has served as a chairperson and a committee member of Child Haven International for almost 20 years, helping to organize annual fundraisers to benefit nine Child Haven children’s homes in India, Tibet, and Nepal. As a long-time committee and board member of the Asian Heritage Foundation, she helped plan cultural events like film showings, art exhibitions, and fundraising galas.

She has served as a committee member on many Calgary organizations where she helped promote Indian culture to mainstream audiences. Mrs. Patel has an Applied Chemistry degree from South Bank University in London, England, and is a married mother of two and grandmother of two.


Simron Sidhu

Simron is a dedicated advocate for community empowerment with experience in community engagement within the healthcare sector. With a background in health sciences and qualitative research, he has been actively involved in provincial and national quality improvement initiatives. Committed to promoting equitable access to services, Simron’s research has focused on immigrant and pediatric health populations, where he has worked on projects aimed at improving healthcare outcomes for marginalized communities.

Simron believes in a community-centric approach, emphasizing that every endeavor should start and end with the community. His passion for fostering positive change aligns with SAIA’s mission to celebrate leaders who contribute to the South Asian community.


Arjan Singh is a Third-year Political science and history student at the University of Calgary. He seeks reform on how the justice system deals with Domestic Violence.

Arjan Singh

Arjan is a third-year political science and history student at the University of Calgary. As a third-generation South Asian immigrant, Arjan has an appreciation for many issues that face the diaspora worldwide.

He is also very passionate about social change and has volunteered his time with the city and provincial politicians to bring the concerns of Calgary’s South Asian community to the table. In the future, he wishes to continue these efforts, with an eye toward reforming how the justice system deals with domestic violence.


SAIA AGM WAS HELD ON JUNE 10, 2024