Charitable Choices: Dr. Sally Zhao of The Immigrant Education Society

We had the opportunity to interview Dr. Sally Zhao, the esteemed President and CEO of The Immigrant Education Society (TIES), an organization dedicated to empowering newcomers and Canadians facing challenges since 1988. As a not-for-profit registered charitable organization, TIES provides essential resources and support to help these individuals succeed and feel a sense of belonging in their new community. Dr. Zhao, who recently won the Women of Inspiration Advocate and Catalyst for Change Award, encourages readers to support TIES by working in the sector, volunteering, donating, promoting their services, and advocating to policymakers about the importance of their mission.

The Immigrant Education Society

Who is answering the questions and what is their position?

Dr. Sally Zhao, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Immigrant Education Society (TIES).


Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.

Since 1988, TIES has been empowering newcomers and Canadians facing challenges as they build lives in Canada. As a not-for-profit registered charitable organization, we provide them with the resources and support they need to succeed and feel a sense of belonging in their new community.

What problem does it aim to solve?

Newcomers to Canada arrive with diverse skills and experiences, but often face challenges during their transition. Adjusting to a new culture, navigating unfamiliar systems, finding meaningful jobs, and overcoming language barriers can be significant hurdles. TIES helps ease this transition by offering a range of programs, such as language instruction, employment training, mental health services, childcare, and financial literacy programs. Our newly established Centre for Immigrant Research identifies new and emerging needs, addressing their challenges in real-time.

When did you start/join it?

I joined TIES in November 2005.

What made you want to get involved?

TIES’s mandate to help newcomers and financially challenged Canadians resonates with my passion to give back to society by helping the vulnerable. The education I have received in English language teaching, testing and assessment and in English language and communications gives me the confidence that I can contribute to this great cause of TIES.

What was the situation like when you started?

When I started, TIES was quite a small organization with about 20 employees and 50 volunteers. Operating under the name of Calgary Immigrant Educational Society (CIES), we were in one building, of about 15,000 square feet, located in the Forest Lawn area of Calgary. We were only offering English language training and some computer, clerical and accounting training programs, serving about 300 students daily.

How has it changed since?

We have expanded exponentially since 1988. Now, we have more than 180 employees and about 200 volunteers. We now operate under the name of (TIES) The Immigrant Education Society. With a wider scope and further reach of services, we now have over 62,000 square feet of space in three buildings, in the Forest Lawn, Whitehorn and West Winds areas of Calgary. In addition to in-person services, since 2012, TIES has been offering a variety of services through e-learning portal. We offer 40+ different programs under the pillars of language, employment, settlement, childcare, and research, serving 1500+ clients daily through in-person, online, and blended delivery modes.

The Immigrant Education Society

What more needs to be done?

The sector needs sustainable funding with a flexible funding model to be able to fully serve the most vulnerable including the newcomers and financially challenged Canadians.

More resources need to be allocated to sector organizations who are serving this population.

Better care, financially and mentally, needs to be given to the personnel who are working in this sector, serving these Canadians.

How can our readers help?

There are various ways that readers can help. For example:

  • Working in the sector,
  • Volunteering,
  • Donating financially,
  • Promoting our services,
  • Advocating to policymakers about the importance of what we do.

Do you have any events coming up?

Yes! We have our annual Multicultural Festival on June 27 which is a celebration of TIES clients. On October 5 we are excited to hold our first annual fundraiser. We will be holding a stair climb challenge that will see supporters climb the Calgary Tower.

Where can we follow you?

Facebook | Instagram | Linkedin

PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?

Women in Need Society (WINS)


About Emilea Semancik 111 Articles
Emilea Semancik was born in North Vancouver. Emilea has always always wanted to work as a freelance writer and currently writes for the Vancouver Guardian. Taking influence from journalism culture surrounding the great and late Anthony Bourdain, she is a recipe author working towards publishing her own series of books. You can find her food blog on Instagram: