Building Leadership: Alemu’s Remarkable Journey in Canada

June 21, 2024

By Ariba Dara, Coordinator, Social & Civic Engagement              (Community Leader)

Upon arriving in Canada from Ethiopia as an international student eight years ago, Alemu Nenko was brimming with hope and ambition. The initial period was marked by feelings of isolation, homesickness, and the daunting task of assimilating into a new society.

Following the completion of his Master of Science in Environmental Sociology at the University of Alberta in 2018, Alemu moved to British Columbia in search of employment within his field. Despite his qualifications, he faced difficulties in securing a position that matched his expertise. Employers were hesitant to hire individuals lacking direct Canadian experience, particularly for roles related to natural resource management. This led to multiple hurdles and rejections, impacting his confidence. Eventually, he accepted a role as an Operations Manager at Scandinavian Building Services, providing him financial stability but not aligning with his career aspirations.

Discovering Hope, Belonging and Confidence through SCOPE

During this challenging period, Alemu came across MOSAIC’s SCOPE (Social and Civic Opportunities: Pathways to Equity) Program through a social media advertisement, which supports immigrants in community participation and encourages active leadership. Through workshops, seminars and networking events, this project offered him an opportunity to connect with others facing similar challenges and mentors who guided him through the complexities of the Canadian job market. Joining SCOPE enabled Alemu to expand his network and find a sense of social belonging that had been absent since his arrival in Canada. The project brought together individuals from diverse backgrounds, all striving to overcome obstacles hindering their professional and personal fulfillment.

The SCOPE program provided Alemu with access to various resources that were pivotal in effecting meaningful changes in his life. Workshops on non-profit board governance, leadership, equity, inclusion, diversity equipped him with the necessary tools to augment his leadership skills and gain back that moral support. The confidence to overcome obstacles gained by this support and resources motivated his involvement in various community and leadership roles.

Community Engagement and Continued Education

Inspired by SCOPE, Alemu took a proactive approach to his professional and personal development. He joined several committees and boards to contribute his skills and experiences. Since 2022, he has served as an Advisory Member of the Vancouver Local Immigration Partnership, providing strategic insights to support immigrant communities. This role allowed him to advocate for policies and programs addressing the unique needs of newcomers. He also holds a strong position as a Board Member and Secretary of the Vancouver Oromo Youth Association since 2020 and has been instrumental in advocating for cultural awareness and community development, highlighting the significance of urban diversity and planning.

In March 2023, Alemu became a Board Member of the Racial and Ethnocultural Equity Advisory Committee for the City of Vancouver. Additionally, his role as a Library Champion with the Surrey Library since 2022 enabled him to assist newcomers in accessing essential community resources.

Recognizing the importance of continuous learning, Alemu pursued further education. He enrolled in a Postgraduate Diploma program in Applied Planning at Langara College and a Project Management Associate Certificate program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. These programs enhanced his understanding of urban planning and project management, strengthening his qualifications for roles aligning with his career objectives.

Attaining Career Goals

The combination of volunteer work, further education, and support from SCOPE eventually led to a breakthrough in Alemu’s professional journey. In February 2024, he secured a position as a Social Policy and Homelessness Researcher with the BC Ministry of Housing. This role allowed him to apply his academic background in Environmental Sociology while making a tangible impact on the community.

In his new role, Alemu conducted research studies to support homelessness policy development, utilizing advanced data analysis techniques. Collaborating with cross-sector working groups, he contributed to comprehensive homelessness strategy planning and evaluation. Securing this position marked a significant milestone for Alemu, validating his efforts and perseverance.

Establishing a Sense of Belonging and Driving Change

With a fulfilling job and a supportive community, Alemu began to feel more settled in Canada. His network of friends, colleagues and mentors served as a foundation for his new life, assisting him in navigating challenges and celebrating achievements. He assumed leadership roles that allowed him to advocate for immigrants and contribute to the creation of inclusive policies and programs. These roles not only enhanced his professional profile but also deepened his connection to the community.


From overcoming initial obstacles to becoming a successful community leader, Alemu Nenko’s journey has been shaped by the support and resources offered by SCOPE, opportunities for volunteer work and further education, and the resilience to persevere in the face of challenges. Today, he takes pride in his progress and remains dedicated to using his experiences to assist other newcomers in navigating their paths to success.

“I am immensely grateful to MOSAIC for the mentorship provided through the SCOPE program, which has been pivotal in overcoming my challenges as an immigrant in the job market; your dedication to volunteering and guiding me has not only been transformative but has also inspired me to amplify my impact in social justice and professional realms,” said Alemu. Learn more about SCOPE Program here.