The S. and A. Inspiration


The S. and A. Inspiration Foundation was founded by Ms. Sima Sharifi and Mr. Arnold Witzig in 2008 as a not-for-profit corporation, located in Vancouver, B.C. In December 2017, the Foundation was closed and all of its assets transferred to the Arctic Inspiration Prize Charitable Trust as a gift.

Sima Sharifi was born in Iran. As a student, she joined the country's movement for democracy.

She eventually arrived in Canada in 1986 where she found her new home. Her first years in Canada were difficult. While volunteering for a number of NGOs she studied French and English and pursued her education. She completed her bachelor's and master's degrees in linguistics in Vancouver and is currently completing her PhD at the University of Ottawa, thereby achieving her childhood educational dream.

Throughout all her years in Canada, she has not forgotten her other goals: to achieve gender equality in her environment and to overcome racism and religious indoctrination.

She believes that Canada is the best country on Earth to live in.

Arnold Witzig was born in 1949 in Switzerland, and was raised in modest circumstances on a small family farm.

He graduated as an architect and gradually realized he could implement a more effective planning and implementation process for architectural projects. He understood that economic, environmental, architectural, technical and social needs had to be integrated in order to succeed, especially for complex industrial projects.

After becoming the CEO of a small architectural firm at 31, he started to carry out his vision to create a unique and comprehensive service by bringing together all the necessary specialists from different areas of expertise into a new business unit that focused on the print and media industry.

Over a period of 18 years, the company that emerged – the IE Engineering Group (IE) – implemented the same business strategy in the plastics, food, life science and later high-tech industries. From its base in Zurich, IE expanded to Munich, Geneva, Leipzig and later Frankfurt.

As Arnold approached 50, IE had become the market leader and was full of young talent. With his business goals achieved, it was time for a change. In 1998 he handed over the IE Group to its team members, representing three different language and cultural regions. Today every employee is an owner, no one person has majority control, and the same business model has been successfully maintained.

In 1999, Arnold said goodbye to family, friends and loved ones in Europe and flew to Vancouver not knowing that it would soon become his new home. The same year, Sima and Arnold found each other.

Their entirely different political views, life experiences, cultural backgrounds, languages and skin color made them an unlikely couple to fall in love with each other, but they discovered that their basic life values were in fact very similar. They came to see that being so different was not a threat, but a challenge – a chance to overcome the differences and to inspire each other to grow.

While Sima continued her academic career, Arnold traveled intensively, climbed the Seven Summits and skied the Polar Regions. Meanwhile Sima learned to bike, ski, and climb, all of which were entirely new for her. They undertook many adventures together, including climbing Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak.

For several years they studied and supported projects in the fields of education and gender equality in the developing world. In 2011 they decided to focus the work of their foundation in Canada, their homeland of choice.