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“I am proud of building bridges through my community work.”

Samra believes in community. “It is the best thing about Fort McMurray,” she said. It is certainly obvious in her volunteer work.

She supports various organizations and initiatives in the community and has been part of the Collaboration for Religious Inclusion, the Northern Lights Sisters Association and the RMWB Landlord and Tenants Advisory Board. Added to her time on a school council, it’s hard to think she has time for anything else. But it is her work for Community and Social Services here in YMM on behalf of the Provincial Government that is perhaps her most important work, although she describes herself as a mother first to her 12-year-old son and her daughter, 8.

With her recent promotion to Director of Programs, it is her job to ensure the community has access to supports and services in the areas of employment, financial assistance and disability related supports and as such she understands the ways of the community and the dynamics of the people more than most. So much so that Girls Inc. recognized her as a Woman of Inspiration last year.

“Samra is recognized for her compassion and willingness to go the extra step for her clients at the Ministry of Community and Social Services,” they said. Ilyas’ client group includes individuals with multiple barriers such as mental health, disabilities, medical health issues preventing them from working, single parents struggling to make ends meet, individuals fleeing abusive relationships or those involved with the justice system. Samra sees her work and her volunteerism as two sides of the same story. “I am supporting individuals and families through my work in social services and supporting community/building bridges through my volunteer work.”

Originally from England, Samra has been in YMM for 10 years. When we asked what would be the one thing she would change, if she could, about Fort McMurray, she mentioned the misconceptions people have about our community. With more like Samra in the community, maybe the way people perceive us will change.