Job Title: Pediatric General Surgeon; Chief Executive Director, Innovative Canadians For Change
Abdullah Saleh was born in Iraq, during the middle of its war with Iran. His family moved to France in 1986 and Canada in 2000. He then volunteered at a children’s hospital in Ecuador to develop better ways to prevent HIV transmission in breast milk, and went back to fight human trafficking and child sex. During that time, he also became a pediatric surgeon, because everyone needs a day job.
Of all his travels, that first trip to Ecuador might have had the biggest impact on what he does today as executive director of Innovative Canadians for Change (IC Change). “I went there naively with a solution looking for a problem,” Saleh says. “The more I talked to these women, the more I realized their situations were much more complex than I thought.”
He extends the “teach a man to fish” proverb to describe what IC Change does — “What if you build an entire school that teaches fishing?” — and thinks that viewing people in poor countries as victims is actually an impediment to helping them. Sustained success comes from shedding any saviour complex and “putting the beneficiaries in the driver’s seat.” Citing two young Kenyan software developers who created a blood donation tracking system that ensures each drop is used, he explains how his organization’s work is bi-directional, and he brings the benefits back home.
Speaking of home: Given how far he’s gone and how much he’s done, does he really feel like a citizen of our city? “I feel like an Edmonton-flavoured child of the world,” he says.