Omar Carrera of San Rafael’s Canal Alliance wins a North Bay Business Journal Nonprofit Leadership Award
Professional background: Before moving to the United States, I was a CPA, business consultant, and entrepreneur in Ecuador. I changed careers when I came to the U.S. where I’ve built my career in nonprofit strategy and management. Today, I have more than eighteen years' experience in business operations management in the non-profit and for-profit sector.
Number of staff: 65
Describe your organization: Canal Alliance exists to help Latino immigrants and their families break the cycle of generational poverty by lifting barriers to their success.
We are a nonprofit champion of immigrants who are challenged by a lack of resources and an unfamiliar environment. We believe that everyone has the right to achieve their dreams.
Every day we educate, empower, support, and partner with motivated immigrants and their families to address their unique needs – from putting food on the table, to becoming U.S. citizens, to learning English, to graduating from college, to obtaining jobs that offer living wages and career-path employment. Because when we support immigrants, Marin becomes a place where everyone can live, learn, work, and succeed.
Our primary strategy is to help youth and adults access education and immigration services, which have the greatest impact on improving long-term outcomes for immigrants.
Because our mission to break the generational cycle of poverty is extremely complex, we also offer services aimed at removing the barriers that prevent people from participating in these programs, including comprehensive social services, behavioral health services, and immediate needs assistance.
Canal Alliance is located in and primarily serve residents of the Canal neighborhood in San Rafael. Every year, we partner with over 60 agencies and engage hundreds of volunteers to support 4,000 individuals and families.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I am a strategic thinker and social entrepreneur with more than 18 years of experience in business operations management in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors.
Prior to accepting the position of CEO, I served for six years as associate executive director at Canal Alliance, overseeing the planning, management and evaluation of our programs and operations.
Before that I worked in a wide range of roles throughout the organization. As a result, I’ve become intimately familiar with the opportunities, challenges and needs facing Latino immigrants in Marin County, and I’ve deepened my understanding of the goals and impact of Canal Alliance’s business model.
As a first generation American, I am also and strong advocate for equity and human rights. Because of my experience immigrating to the United States from Ecuador in 2003, I bring a fresh perspective on the challenges facing immigrants, as well as on the huge economic potential that immigrants represent for our community and our country.
Three generations ago my family was living in extreme poverty in Ecuador. The highest level of education anyone in my family had attained was elementary school. My grandparents made the bold decision to make certain sacrifices in order to break the cycle of poverty.
They knew that the only way to change the future for their children and grandchildren was by providing them with access to higher education.
Being the parents of nine children in a broken economy, they made the difficult decision to withdraw two of their children from school in order to put them to work to generate enough money to educate the other seven.
One of the children sacrificed was my mother. She didn’t finish high school, but instead started working as a seamstress at age 14.
My parents got married when they were 19 years old and had four children. They worked very hard to provide a stable foundation for our lives and futures. My parents instilled in us the values of kindness, respect, honesty, education, ongoing self-improvement and helping others along the way.
Without a doubt these values have shaped every aspect of my life from relationships to career, and even my personal passions and interests.
What achievement are you most proud of?
Becoming the CEO of Canal Alliance is one of the most important achievements of my professional life.
Sixteen years ago, I was learning English as a client of the Canal Alliance ESL Program. At that time, I was identified for my skills to first teach and then coordinate our technology training program.
While I continued to learn English, my previous education and experience as a business administrator, consultant, and entrepreneur, helped me support Spanish speaking clients to learn how to use computers and the internet while I was also growing professionally and support the organization’s programs.