For REALTOR® Esa Para, dealing with adversity is nothing new. Esa and his wife Sumi immigrated to Canada due to the civil war in Sri Lanka. Struggling with his new life at first, Esa soon found a new home in his local South Asian community in Scarborough. Realizing the importance of a strong community, Esa began volunteering in 1994, working with South Asian organizations and raising funds for the Trillium Health Partners Foundation (THPF) in 2004.
His work became even more personal when he suffered a life-threatening heart attack in 2014 and was sent to Mississauga Hospital for treatment, a hospital that falls under the Trillium Health Partners (THP) umbrella. Feeling inspired and motivated once he recovered, Esa became a Community Ambassador for the Trillium Health Partners Foundation. He continued to work tirelessly, but this time to give back to the hospital and staff who saved his life.
To date, Esa has worked with several groups and event organizers to help raise over $300,000 to support Trillium Health Partners.
This is Esa Para’s Real Heart story.
A: I emigrated from Sri Lanka in 1990 to flee the ongoing civil war. It was a dangerous time in my hometown, and I had to escape the country before something terrible happened. I was fortunate enough to reach Canada safely, but I soon began a difficult transition into this new country. I landed in Toronto on a cold, bitter night in December – I can still feel the piercing chill of the wind on my face. This was going to be the first of many challenges I’d face in Canada. Similar to any new immigrant, I struggled to find a decent job. From 1990 to 1992, I worked at a telemarketing company, and even helped my friend deliver newspapers.
I was able to save money and began taking classes at Centennial College to upgrade my professional skills. Soon, things changed for the better. My wife began working for the Bank of Montreal while I started a career at Bell that lasted several years. In December of 2000, Bell began to downsize, and I realized this was my time to take a step back and do something I love. Shortly after that, I became a REALTOR® and never looked back.
A: When I immigrated to Canada, I gravitated towards those who had a similar story to mine, mainly in the Canadian Tamil and South Asian communities. Having support from those who understood my situation made the transition that much easier. I quickly realized the importance of a community that builds and supports one another.
As I grew older, I found myself visiting friends and their parents at various THP hospital sites. It felt like these hospital trips were a weekly occurrence for me. On these drives, I began to think how blessed some of us are. Sometimes we take these luxuries of good health and safety for granted and I wanted to give back to those who may not be as fortunate.
My work began with the India Rainbow Community Services (now known as Indus Community Services) and the Senior Tamil Society of Peel. In 2004, I became the Board President of the India Rainbow Community Services and launched their first walkathon in support of THPF. Around the same time, I participated in a walkathon for the Senior Tamil Society of Peel and, collectively, both organizations raised over $35,000 for the Foundation in that year. I then got involved with The Ripple Effect Wellness Organization (TREWO), where I managed the media relations for the annual Imagination Ball Gala, which raised $15,000 for THP’s cancer program and over $45,000 for THP’s seniors’ health program. I am proud to have made a difference across so many critical areas of my community hospital.
Seeing the immediate impact, I began working with other organizations, including the SCREEN of Peel Community Association (SOPCA), United Way, Hospice of Peel and Rotary Club. All my efforts over the years focused on raising money for THPF and other charities to provide them with the tools and resources needed to provide better care for my community.
From 2016 to 2019, I supported the annual Cardiovascular Wellness and Rehabilitation Centre’s Walk of Life by participating in the event planned by the cardiac rehab team. I fundraised and shared my story with participants to inspire them to donate to the event and become more involved with giving back to their community. Unfortunately, the last few Walk of Life events have been cancelled due to COVID-19.
In June 2021, on my birthday, I pledged to raise $25,000 over five years for the cardiac program that saved my life at THP. I’m looking forward to supporting THP more in the coming years.
A: When I started my community service, I took pride in knowing the money we raised went to the hospitals that gave my friends and family the support they needed.
However, in 2014, it became even more personal. I was rushed to Mississauga Hospital with a severe heart attack. The sounds of the doctors and care team, and the panic of my family still ring in my head today. I didn’t think I was going to survive, but the doctors performed a last-minute quadruple bypass that saved my life.
I spent my recovery in the hospital’s Cardiovascular Wellness and Rehabilitation Centre. From the time I was admitted, to going through surgery and then through rehab, I felt safe. The staff at THP were incredible. I’m forever grateful for their efforts to save my life and help me recover. I felt impassioned to do more and to raise money for the hospital, so they can continue providing life-saving care for our community.
A: After years of supporting the work of THP, I signed on to become a Community Ambassador for the Foundation in 2020.
As an Ambassador, I provide support with recruiting groups or individuals to contribute or fundraise for THP. I also play an active role in inspiring others in the community to volunteer and be leaders in our community.
A: Another organization dear to me is Screen of Peel Community Association (SOPCA), a Tamil youth and family organization in the Peel region. In honour of an outstanding member, SOPCA has raised nearly $5,000 and counting for children’s health at THP.
It’s not always about the money you raise, but the connections you can help foster to spread awareness. I’m lucky to be in an industry where community service is second nature, so moving forward, I’d like to leverage my REALTOR® network and work with them to get involved in more community fundraising initiatives – whether it’s donating a portion of their sale commission to a local food bank or hospital, or asking their client to choose a charity to donate to on their behalf.
Giving back is part of the REALTOR® culture here in Ontario and I think it’s something we all should be doing.
A: My life is divided into three areas: my profession, my family, and my community service. I aspire to be a role model in all three aspects.
As a REALTOR®, I try to understand what I can do to be a role model or community ambassador for those around me. My hope for the Real Heart Initiative is that other REALTORS®, like myself, can come together and make a difference for our communities. It’s all about sharing ideas and positivity with others to inspire them to want to give back.
Getting connected with Trillium Health Partners Foundation
The Trillium Health Partners Foundation is dedicated to raising the critical funds needed to address the highest-priority needs of Trillium Health Partners, Ontario’s largest community academic hospital. Trillium Health Partners is comprised of Credit Valley Hospital, Mississauga Hospital and Queensway Health Centre.
For more information about fundraising for Trillium Health Partners, visit www.trilliumgiving.ca/fundraise.