Introducing… MICHEL!

The summer student experience at DIVERSEcity includes learning about workplace culture and about the different types of work our staff does to support our clients in their success. This series of staff interviews will provide different glimpses of what life is like at DIVERSEcity. From interviews with members of our executive team to front line staff, we hope our interview series provides an interesting and holistic insight into our agency.

What is your name and role at DIVERSEcity?
Michel Ndiom (pronounced like Dion in Celine Dion, but Niom). I am the Manager of Francophone Services.

How long have you been working at DIVERSEcity?
Since December 19th, 2010. 6 years.

But you weren’t a manager the entire time?
I was a settlement worker for four years, then a manager.

What inspired you to work here?
What inspired me to work here was the desire to find a way to help other immigrants better settle in Canada. I did not intend to stay for long, but over the years my interest grew. There was always something to learn and someone to help.

Can you tell me about how you spend most of your time at work?
Every day is different. The last two days I have been responding to emails but there are days where I spend most of my time meeting with staff. It varies depending on the needs of the calendar. Interacting with my staff is essential to me as I need to know exactly how they feel and how I can help them in a more effective way.

What are your main responsibilities?
I write proposals and I also make sure to hire the right people to implement our contracts. We therefore make sure that every single day, as a team, the contract is being fulfilled.

What advice do you have for clients?
I would tell them that as a settlement worker, it is our job to support whatever decision they make. We provide information so that they will be able to make the right decisions for their lives, because a settlement worker’s initial job is to refer and to provide information. We do not provide workshops for the sake of providing them. We want them to be informed. There’s this mentality that the settlement worker helps you; no – the settlement worker supports you. I am not here to live their lives for them. They have a story to write, I am not here to write it for them. We support them to help make sure their dreams come true.

Knowing what you know now, what advice do you have for someone getting into this line of work?
You must always be willing to learn new things. Information changes and you must be up-to-date in order to give timely and accurate information to your clients. You must be versatile. You  cannot focus solely on your own language group, instead you must also learn how other ethnic cultures function and how you can learn from them. Yes you will provide information to others but you are also constantly learning from the environment you are in. The key thing is that you learn every day.

What do you find most enjoyable about your work?
I love seeing the joy in the faces of my staff after they have helped their clients.

What are some of the challenges?
Time management. Schedules are important however they do not always work for everybody. I need to be able to find a way to manage my time between speaking and meeting with my staff and to also attend management meetings. Juggling between the follow-ups of meetings can be difficult. The key thing is prioritization. My priority might not be someone else’s priority, which is challenging.

What is the best thing about working at DIVERSEcity?
Being able to see different world views coming together for the same purpose: to help.

If there was one thing you could tell the general public about refugees or immigrants, what would it be?
They are written letters to read and to be inspired from.

What do you do outside of work?
Spend time with family and friends. We keep the bond between us. For fun, I like making pastries, baking, cooking, and watching TV with family.

What do you like to watch?
I like watching cartoons with my children.

Which country or city would you like to visit?
Sydney or Melbourne.

What books are you currently reading or read last?
A book on disabilities called Disabilities Politics and Theory by A.J. Withers.

What is something that most people who work with you don’t know about you?
I don’t know how to swim.

Can you share something you are proud of or a success you have had at DIVERSEcity?
In the French department, our influence has grown to the point where today we have a team that is well-known in the community as the go-to place for French speaking immigrants in Surrey.


Amy: Surrey Welcomes Refugees

DIVERSEcity had a booth at the Surrey Welcomes Refugees event and it was a success! The event was held on July 20th at the Surrey City Hall Plaza which is surrounded by City Centre Library, City Hall, and Surrey Central Skytrain Station – a very central location.


Laura, one of my managers, invited me to help prepare for the event and I was delegated the task of preparing activities for our booth. We came up with the idea of playing diversity bingo, having a map where people could put a sticker on where they were from, having an origami station, and a photo station.


A couple of days before the event I prepared the bingo sheets, made origami samples, and came up with a shopping list.

The day-of was a bit of a whirlwind. On my way to work I stopped by Walmart and Dollarama to pick up candy (~100 pieces – that was a mistake) and some other things we needed. We started packing our supplies about an hour before we were planning to leave and quickly realized how much stuff we had to bring. Turns out we had 2 cars worth of stuff!

It was the perfect day to be outdoors in the plaza: it was sunny, the sky was clear, and it was really warm. Seeing as this was the first time the event was being held, we had no idea of how big of a turnout to expect…

…and we were definitely pleasantly surprised. There were so many people! Tons of kids and families wandering around and mingling, enjoying the food and exploring the booths. Since we had candy and tons of free swag, we were a pretty big hit! I’ve got to say the swag we have is pretty cool. We’re talking mouse pads, pens, bubbles, stress balls, mints and balloons here. So many fun things! We even gave out bags of Lush goodies.

About 45 minutes into the 3 hour event we ran out of candy so we had to get some more. I bought 3 times as much but even then it didn’t last us the rest of the event. Everyone wants candy!

Most of our time was spent mingling with passersby, giving out swag and teaching origami. Because there was so much hustle and bustle at the beginning I wasn’t sure if people would want to actually stop and do origami, but turns out some people were really interested. The bubbles and waterless tattoos were pretty popular too.

This is Laura! She’s helping this visitor with her tattoo.

It was so much fun interacting with everyone. As we got closer to the end of the event and things settled down, I found the time to go over to a booth offering free henna tattoos. I’ve wanted to get one for ages now and I finally got the chance!

Look at our henna!

So for reference for the next event: have tons of candy, tons of swag, do the origami (make sure there’s someone there who knows what how to do it!), pass on the bingo, and bring a camera for photos but don’t prepare a photo station.

It was a great evening. I definitely left feeling like Surrey welcomes refugees 🙂

Amy: Community Kitchen

Last week I got the chance to participate in my first Community Kitchen and it was so much fun! For this particular session we weren’t jam packed with participants, making it easier move around the kitchen and to have actual conversations as well.

We made risotto with squash, Korean chicken, and had a side salad. MY GOODNESS it was delicious. Hats off to Helen for the scrumptious recipe!

It took us roughly 2 hours to cook, eat, and clean up.

I find team cooking itself to be fun, but what I enjoyed the most was definitely the conversation. As I spend most of my day with my laptop I’ve found myself craving for some client interaction and I’m happy to say I got a good dose of that in the kitchen!

I know this is an idealist thing to say, but I think everyone who works in social services should do it because they care (actually I think this sentiment could stretch into many other fields too but that’s a whole other post for a different blog!); I chose to apply for this position because I care about this population. I think it’s very important for people who work in this, and many other fields, to stay connected to people they serve and I’m grateful to be getting the opportunity to do so.

Amy: Rub-a-dub-dub Making Soap for the Tub

For community programs, most of what I’m working on this summer revolves around raising funds for our programs. We have a lot of lavender growing around our building that was eventually going to get cut so we decided hey, why not teach a class using lavender?

lavender pic

After some brainstorming we settled on using lavender to make soap. Our first choice was to ask an instructor to come in and teach the class but after reaching out to a couple of places we couldn’t find an instructor. We did however receive an offer for a discount on supplies so being the go-getters we are, we took the discount and decided to teach the class ourselves (actually I taught it myself Smiling Face With Sunglasses Emoji (Twitter Version) adding that to the resumé!)

So I did some research on how to make soap, got the supplies, and taught a class for staff. With about 10 people, the class went well! Everyone got to take home a nice smelling soap and learned how to make their own. I even ended up teaching a second class for people who couldn’t make the first one.

Were you hoping to find the recipe here? Nuh-uh, you should have taken the class! But if you just want to buy a handmade soap, stay tuned! They’re coming.

I may have just found a new hobby. You know who to call when you’re looking for soap 😉

soap group pic

Amy: My First Couple of Weeks

The first two-and-a-half weeks flew by! This being my first time working in an office, the first few days were all about getting a feel for office life. After hearing some horror stories from people about their terrible experiences working in offices, whether it be physically unpleasant working environments or unfriendly colleagues, I’m super excited to say I am not someone with a horror story to tell 🙂 Sitting at the second floor information desk, however, has its pros and cons. Everyone is super friendly and always says good morning with a smile on their faces as they pass by, which is fabulous. I love that I’m not greeted by grumpy people who hate their jobs every morning, because that really sets your day off on the wrong foot. But because this location is a bit of a high traffic area, people are always walking by and saying hello or stopping to chat, which in itself is both a pro and a con. I’ve developed a liking for my little area though, and it helps that I have Dianne to sit with. It’s great to have someone to ask “what’s their name again?” 😉 among other things, of course!

During the first week or so I met with my managers Laura and Chanchal to discuss  what I will be working on for the rest of the summer. Coming out of the meetings, the weeks ahead seemed a little daunting. There was a lot of new information, ideas and events ahead. Thankfully they also sent me meeting notes and a detailed list of things to do be done this summer, which helped a lot! It provided a better idea of which tasks were urgent, which tasks were actually quite simple, and which tasks required more planning. With a little time to process my next steps I was ready to go go go!

I won’t get into my projects right now as I will write about them throughout the summer, but I’m excited to get busy! So far everything has been going swimmingly.