Dennis: Feeding the Soul: Healthy Minds and Bodies Program Update

Why Feeding the Soul: Healthy Minds and Bodies Program?
This fun program is what I have been working on for the last while. We came up with this amazing title because we wanted to say, in a few words, what the program was going to be about. We wanted something creative that would make youth want to be part of this great program. We know that having a healthy body and a healthy mind is not only about eating healthy foods and being happy, it is actually doing what you truly like and enjoy the most. It makes you feel satisfied and that satisfaction will make you want to achieve your higher goals. Feeding your soul is loving yourself first, feeling at peace with your neighbours, and embracing the world the way it is.

What is it about?
The Feeding the Soul: Healthy Minds and Bodies Program has been about discovering hidden skills and learning new ways to be engaged with the community. The program had positive topics that helped the participants be more confident, gain new skills, be more creative, and learn how to boost their self-esteem. We explored very efficient techniques to help de-stress,  gain confidence, improve public speaking skills, and skills for youth to be able to introduce themselves to someone new in school or the community.

Gwen’s Speak Up! workshop

What activities took place?
We started our first week introducing ourselves, making anti-stress balloons, watching some videos from TransLink, cooking, making some oil pastel paintings, and sharing our thoughts, ideas and opinions about certain topics. We had a special guest that guided our participants in some activities on how to network and present themselves. We also had several craft activities and we gave some prizes and certificate for participating in our youth program.

Valentine’s Day card activity with Jeniffer Espinal

Being able to help the community by supporting Canadians is something that has impacted my life in a very positive way. Now I understand that children and youth face different and difficult challenges in life too, even though adults sometimes think their own children do not have problems or situations that make them feel stressed, sad, depressed or without energy. Part of the problem is poor communication with their family members which can be improved by doing activities together, going on family trips, doing activities to meet new friends and doing what they really like.


Doing kitchen activities with the participants was a really good experience for all of us because our Kitchen Coordinator, Kendall, gave our participants really important facts on nutrition. Nutrition can have a big impact on well being. She also gave step-by-step instructions, in one of our sessions, on how to make a cauliflower pizza which was really amazing, tasty and healthy!


Our next Feeding the Soul: Healthy Minds and Bodies Program has already started and we will be offering more session in the future. Contact us if you would like to participate! Here is what it is all about:
The Feeding the Soul: Healthy Minds and Bodies Program will target youth up to age 24 in the Surrey area with a particular focus on those that are newcomers, refugees and citizens. We will cover interesting topics that will help them cope in school, work, at home, or in the community. We will also have a very experienced guests that will help build on communicating better and gain some important skills. As part of the program we will be doing some exciting activities plus everyone will learn how to make easy, fun and healthy snacks in each session and take home a recipe book!

When is it?
I will be facilitating the group on Saturdays from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM. Right now we are working with youth 15-18 and in March it will be youth 19-24. Call the number on the poster if you want to attend any of our sessions! Or, just email me at



Dennis: My First Month at DIVERSEcity

I started working at DIVERSEcity at the perfect time, because we are having lots of Christmas activities! There are lots of activities to be involved in, for example, we Christmas party in which everyone was cheery and dressed up in nice and colourful coats, Christmas sweaters and Santa’s hats. ,There are seminars going on, staff gatherings, gift exchange activities & let´s not forget about the snow! Almost everyone has a story about what the snow brought into their lives. Some say they love it and while others say it’s hard to drive around with the streets full of snow, but for me it’s a white & happy Christmas for the first time in Canada.

Now getting back to business…. a friend from back home asked me “What exactly do you do at DIVERSEcity?” Well my friend, my role here is very DIVERSE! It starts by checking and answering my emails and drinking some chai tea made by myself or sometimes coffee, (both offered by DIVERSEcity 🙂 ).  If my help is needed, sometimes I help at the front desk. It’s actually fun to answer phone calls. Because I’m new I’m always asking who Maureen Chang is, or who Gurminder is! I will soon learn everyone’s name but it may take time as there are over 100 employees here. When a client does not speak English but only speaks Arabic or another language I always ask Kim and Haneet for help, or I check my list of contacts and ask, perhaps, Rana to come and help translate for me. Working in a multicultural and lingual environment can be challenging but it is important to always be friendly and patient! I’m sometimes have to try to figure out what the clients want by making funny faces or gestures with my hands; I guess I should learn a third language!

dennis1I also love helping with the Community Kitchen Program because I am able to learn new recipes and I also get try the food afterwards. I helped Leo prepare the mashed potatoes once
and they was so good that I served myself twice. But that’s not what it’s all about, it’s about being able to share good moments with clients, learn new skills and help them practice English, and helping them interact and meet new friends. They like the program so much that they even come on a snowy or rainy days. They never miss a day.

We made salad, garlic bread, mashed potatoes, pork with mushrooms and a strawberry and blueberry smoothie. Yum, I’m hungry now!

dennis3I also recently went to a settlement session for immigrant support workers on employment related topics at the Surrey Sports & Leisure Centre. They talked about some of the services, requirements and benefits available for newcomers, refugees & permanent resident clients. Some of our neighbour organizations were at the event as well, so it was an excellent time to network and to promote the workshop I’m working on.

dennis4I supported Helen with the Food Security, Community Kitchen program. This program provides opportunities for immigrant, refugee and low income families to increase their food security through multicultural cooking groups and community garden activities.


Irene Yan and I were able to decorate the dining room, wrap the gifts and play some Christmas music. She came up with some fun games to play with the guests.

These are the gifts we gave to our guests, volunteers and clients.



DIVERSEcity for me is a place where I can really have fun while I help the community. It’s a place to learn how to get along with people from diverse backgrounds and it challenges me to do things I have never done before.

A friend took a photo of me on my way to DIVERSEcity
A photo from the Apple Cider Gathering

Apple Cider gathering – This event is an annual tradition at DIVERSEcity. Staff get to enjoy some winter treats. I did not help with this event but I wanted to share the picture to show some of the holiday activities DIVERSEcity had during the month of December. I was able to share a few minutes with the staff, eat some cookies and grapes, and I tasted homemade apple cider for the first time!


On December 8 we had our department gift exchange activity. I enjoyed it and I was able to learn staff names, take pictures, eat, laugh, have some fun, and tried to guess who gave which gift.


Everything was so delicious that I wanted the recipe of some of the goodies. I think everyone enjoyed it and the amazing part was that everything was vegetarian!


I was trying to remember everyone’s name but I knew only 5 or 6 at that point.

Guess who gave me the gift card and the macaroons? It was Helen Shin, and she even made the macaroons herself!


“Feeding the Soul: Healthy Mind & Bodies Program” is the new program I am working on! It focuses on refugee and new immigrants/newcomers teens & youths. We will be hosting fun activities, discussing interesting topics, and have guest speakers. I will be sharing a little bit of my experience on how I coped with integrating into Canadian society. We are also going to show the participants how to make easy & healthy snacks in our community kitchen. The first group will start in mid-January 2017 and will be for teens between the ages of 12-15 years old. The second group will be for ages of 15-18 and the third group will be for youth ages 19-24. Right now I’m just getting everything ready.

So I guess that’s what I’ve been doing this month. Reading the policy book, helping out front desk, helping with the Settlement monthly report, going to meetings and seminars, supporting the Settlement team with the English workshop at the Guildford Library, writing for this blog, and helping the Community Kitchen & Moving Ahead Program. It has been busy!

Introducing… DENNIS!

What is your name and role at DIVERSEcity?
Dennis Juarez Flores and my role is Settlement & Community Programs Support Worker.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born in a tropical city in Honduras, called San Pedro Sula (known as the industrial city of the country). I always believed that I could do better, that I could help others and that I had a lot of potential to give in whatever field I wanted, but it was very difficult because of the corruption and crime in my country. I always wanted something new, something different and a career and life change. And in fact my life did change, when I decided to come to Vancouver. I came to Canada on April 6th, 2016. I spent almost 3 months preparing myself & preparing paperwork for my hearing and on June 16th the board member approved my claim. After that process, I applied for Permanent Residency, which was approved shortly after they received my application.

I volunteered for almost 3 months at Settlement Orientation Services, and even though a lot of people told me that I shouldn’t waste my time on volunteering, I never stopped, in fact I even doubled my time. My role there was to help newcomers settle in BC by helping them fill out immigration forms and by giving them advice on how to go through the process. Looking for job in BC was very challenging and competitive, until I got training at the YMCA. I learned so much and I was able to share my thoughts, ideas & experiences.

After the program ended, I contacted several organizations and just 2 of them replied back, one of them was DIVERSEcity. After several emails, I got an informal interview and I came here obviously nervous and not knowing what to expect. That same day, my current manager told me if I could start next week. I just couldn’t believe it! I was so happy, excited and thankful that I immediately called my family and told them about it. We were all so happy.

Can you tell me about the programs you support?
At first I started supporting the Community Kitchen Programs, LINC Workshops at Guildford Library and most recently a new program called Feeding the Soul: Healthy Minds & Bodies.


Can you tell me about the Feeding the Soul: Healthy Mind & Bodies program?
This program targets children & youth in the Surrey area with a particular focus on those that are newcomers, immigrants & refugees. This program will include workshops about how to deal with stress, self-confidence, and self-esteem. We’ll also talk about how to cope with school, society, and new culture. We may have talks from guests as well.

How do you spend most of your work time?
Preparing for the Feeding the Soul workshop is now my main focus. A normal day at DIVERSEcity for me is preparing PowerPoint presentations, searching for videos and pictures for the workshop, looking for fun activities to do and contacting guest speakers. I have also supported the front desk and helped with monthly settlement reports.

What advice do you have for your clients?
I know leaving everything behind is not easy; some of you might have left your family, friends and belongings. I know at first it seems so difficult. Some days are good and others bad, you have to adapt to a new culture, new people, and different weather. Everything seems very challenging; you don’t know how to take the bus or the sky train, there is a different language and trying to integrate into a new society is hard. But guess what? Everything changes! You get used to everything, you start to like the weather, you challenge yourself to make new friends, and you see the kindness in people – people who give you strength & encourage you to continue and to not give up.

Some advice I can give you is to do volunteer work, which will help you get Canadian job experience. You’ll get to know new people & you’ll learn new stuff. The good thing about coming to a new country is that you can start over, have a career change or even change your life.

What do you find most enjoyable about your work?
What I enjoy the most is learning new things and getting to know new people from different backgrounds. I like how diverse the clients and staff are and getting to know new cultures is so amazing; you might even see that you have some similarities in music and food.

What are some of the challenges of the work?
One of the challenges anticipate that I might face is with teenagers from 12-15 years old, because they might be shy to participate. My challenge will be to get them to speak English and to get them to participate without fear in our activities.

What is the best thing about working at DIVERSEcity?
Working at DIVERSEcity for me is so great because I am learning a little bit of everything. I am putting my ideas into action, and being heard by my manager is what makes my job so amazing. It’s good to know that they care about the clients and staff. For me, this is a good opportunity to grow in the settlement field, to gain more experience and perhaps to grow within the organization.

What are your hobbies and interests and how do you de-stress?
My hobbies include watching Netflix, going for walks, going to the beach and just feeling the wind, hanging out with my friends and talking to my loved ones. Whenever I feel stressed, I definitely go to the beach because it makes me feel better. It makes me feel at peace with myself and it reminds me of my country.

What country or city would you like to visit?
I would love to go to Bora Bora, France, and Toronto. I would also like to see the Aurora Borealis in Yukon.

What has been surprising for you over the course of your career?
That everything changes. I always wanted to work for a non-profit organization and I wanted to help people. I studied medicine for almost 5 years in Honduras but coming to Canada I realized that helping people was what I wanted to do. So I started volunteering at a settlement organization and as I write this I realize that 5 years ago I wanted to do what I’m doing now. So at the end you always get what you want.

Has your job affected your lifestyle? Has it changed your outlook on life?
It has changed my life completely. I am more careful with what I say or do, I have more empathy for people, I have always been kind-hearted so now I care more about others, I try to listen carefully to their struggles and see how or what can I do to help them. I always try to help others in any way, because you never know when they will help you back!

If you could get the general public to understand something about refugees and immigrants, what would it be?
I would like people to know why refugees & new immigrants come to Canada. Refugees come to Canada seeking protection, to feel more secure, to forget their past, to start over and to build a brighter future. They face many struggles in their home country; some of them have traumatic experiences that are not easy to overcome: they come from countries that are at war, that discriminated based on religion and sexuality, that do not respect human rights, and engage in torture. So it is good to know what happens in their lives and how we can help them. It is also good that Canada is very welcoming; it is very friendly and very open to new cultures. New immigrants come here to look for a better job, better education and better health care. So if you see someone that is new to Canada, encourage them to never give up, tell them to be strong and to keep fighting for their dreams.

Introducing… ANU!

What is your name and role at DIVERSEcity
Anu Mitra – Volunteer Coordinator for Settlement Services.

How long have you been working at DIVERSEcity?
Over 13 years. I’ve been with the LINC program as a Teaching Assistant, then as a Volunteer Coordinator. I have recently moved to the Settlement department as a Volunteer Coordinator.

What inspired you to work here or why do you do what you do?
Basically I like to help people and being an immigrant myself, I understand the challenges that immigrants face. It really inspired me seeing how the Canadian government provided support in helping new immigrants settle. DIVERSEcity impressed me when I initially started as a client and soon I was offered an opportunity to be a part of their team and help too. I wanted to give back to the society and help the clients with my experience and training.

How do you spend most of your work time?
First of all it starts with checking emails as I have lots of correspondence with volunteers. A big chunk of my time goes into recruiting, training and scheduling volunteers. Volunteer management is part of my job and I have to make sure that there is consistency between staff and volunteers. The recruitment process is lengthy – interviewing, CRC (criminal record check) clearance, reference checks, orientation and entry in the database. The interview usually takes about 40 minutes and each day I interview 3 to 4 volunteers, some of which may be drop ins.

Everyday I schedule at least one volunteer to cover the front desk as a DIVERSEcity Ambassador. They become the first point of contact when any client walks in, thereby taking the load off the regular admin assistants. There are times when they are swarmed with clients, while at other times there may not be much to do. That’s the time I need to keep the volunteers engaged. They need to feel they are gaining experience and that volunteering is worthwhile. So I find projects that they can do in between attending the clients.

I also maintain a database of volunteers and write reports when I’m not attending team meetings.

What advice do you have for your volunteers?
To not just volunteer for the hours! They should contribute in helping the clients’ needs by understanding and guiding them and be part of the clients’ success. Volunteers should be willing to learn, to accept guidance, and to maintain a smooth relationship with others, and not only look for personal gains.

What do you find most enjoyable about your work?
To see the smile on a client’s face when they have achieved something. I’m involved with both students, clients and with volunteers. When my former students feel that I have impacted their lives, and come and hug me because they are happy to have achieved their goals, that becomes my success story too.

From the volunteer side, a lot of the volunteers are happy with my guidance and direction and feel that I have helped them find a job or settle down. Among volunteers, I do have citizens as well as newcomers. For newcomers, volunteering enhances their resumes as they gain Canadian work experience and it helps build their self-esteem. I feel proud to see them grow! For citizens volunteering is mostly to give something back to the community. I have had volunteers who have been with me for 7 years, and it is very satisfying to see I can retain volunteers and see that they are happy to come back.

What are some of the challenges?
One of the biggest challenges is when volunteers don’t keep up to their commitments. For many, it may be because they are looking for jobs and need to cancel at the last moment.
Sometimes retaining volunteers is a challenge. Training them and then having to retrain a different set of people for the same job is frustrating.
It’s also challenging when volunteers don’t follow instructions, and it’s frustrating redoing jobs that aren’t done properly due to lack of understanding.

Is recruiting volunteers difficult?
No, not as DIVERSEcity has now become better known in the community. In the last 13 years I have seen a lot of change. It used to be difficult finding volunteers on a regular basis. I had to do outreach to promote our program and it was very difficult to recruit. But now most people in the community know we have a volunteer component and contact me themselves. We get new volunteers practically every day.

What is the best thing about working at DIVERSEcity
Meeting multicultural clients and staff who are passionate about their jobs. The coworkers and managers are supportive and encouraging and bring out the best in me.

What are your hobbies and interests and how do you de-stress?
I’m a creative person. I do a lot of crafts, painting, poetry, and I like to dance. I get involved with a lot of cultural programs in my community. I love nature, so I do a lot of bird watching with my husband.

What country or city would you like to visit?
If I had the chance, I would like to visit the Amazon rain-forest.

What book are you currently reading or read last?
I’m reading a book called “Robbery of the Soil” by Rabindranath Tagore. It’s about the importance of replenishing what you take from society and the soil.

Can you share something you are proud of/or a success you had at DIVERSEcity?
When I was in the LINC program with the students, it was great to see how I made an impact on their lives. I especially remember a student who was over 80 years old from Afghanistan. She was deaf and because of her disability, her speech was also not proper. She came to learn English in the pre-literacy level from a village where being in the classroom for her was almost claustrophobic. She had never really been confined to walls. When we help students read we start with phonics. She couldn’t even repeat the phonics since she couldn’t hear. I would help her every day but couldn’t be sure if anything I said registered in her brain. My goal was to help her say and write her name, but I wasn’t really sure if she was getting it. One day I was teaching a new student along with her when I said “b,” the 80 year old lady to my surprise suddenly said “buh.” Tears filled my eyes as I realized she passed the first hurdle through all her challenges. By the end of 6 months she could actually write her full name, and say it! That was a great achievement!

With volunteers, whenever volunteers approach me I try to give everyone a chance. I don’t discriminate even if they are physically or mentally challenged. I think that every person has a strength we can learn from. I’ve had many volunteers who were physically challenged. I had a volunteer who had cerebral palsy, who had trouble walking and her speech was unclear. She couldn’t hold a pen to write and so I would do the writing while she gave the instructions to the class. I brought her in to show students that any hurdle can be overcome. What’s important isn’t just knowledge from books but also seeing that if she can come and volunteer and do things – so can you. Usually when new students arrive they are very discouraged and are struggling. I want to tell them that if she can overcome her barriers, they can too!

Has your job affected your lifestyle? Has it changed your outlook on life?
My outlook has changed quite a bit. Initially I was shy and an introvert! Ever since I started working here I have become more extrovert, confident, empathetic and value what I have. I have developed patience and have learned to be less judgemental. I try to find reasons in other people’s behavioural pattern and try to be positive.

What happens during the interview process with volunteers?
It’s not a very formal interview; it’s more about learning of their abilities. I have to interview prospective volunteers and inform them the details of the various fields they can volunteer in and make them aware of our policies and procedures. I try to learn about their strengths and weaknesses and also give them advice about fields they can volunteer in. For example, if they opt for English Conversation Circles, I ask if they’ve worked with ESL students.  I need to find out if they’re willing to learn from me and willing to follow my directions or if they’re just volunteering because they feel that it’s easy! I get to know a little bit more about them and then I can place them in the right field.

If there was one thing you could get the general public to understand about refugees and immigrants, what would it be?
I would say that they should try to be empathetic, and understand the culture they come from before being judgemental. There’s a lot to learn from them. Their courage, perseverance, and strength help me find my values in life.

What is the most important quality for a volunteer working with immigrants and refugees?
Patience! When new immigrants or refugees come, they bring with them the baggage of hurdles in their life. They may react negatively but we have to understand their problems and issues in life. For some it is shown through anger, but once we are patient and listen to them, they also cool down. That’s important.

What are your pet peeves?
When people are being judgemental without knowing someone’s cultural background.

Kiran: From Practicum to Staff

What a journey it has been! I first discovered DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society many years ago when a friend was in need of some support. What I had known at that time about DIVERSEcity was that they provided counselling services.  I did not know that there was a wide range of many other services that were available too.

I always knew I wanted to get into a field where I was able to work with children and youth who may be facing challenges and required some support. I had previously been working with adults for approximately six years, but I really knew I wanted to also have the chance to work with a younger population and families. That’s when I decided to enroll myself into the Bachelor of Child and Youth Care Counselling program at Douglas College.

Once it came time for my practicum, I knew that I wanted to be placed with DIVERSEcity.  I spoke with my instructors at school and got the ok to contact the manager to see if this was possible.  A week later I was in contact with Corina Carroll, the Manager of Counselling Services, regarding having the opportunity to complete my practicum.  After connecting with Corina, I was advised that I would be able to complete my practicum with DIVERSEcity *happy dance!*

I started my practicum March 2015 with my first day being at the Spring Child and Youth Empowerment Camp.  Fast forward a few months, and I now had the opportunity to apply for a temporary summer position that had come up as the Child and Youth Empowerment Camp Coordinator.  I was extremely happy when I was called in for an interview and then ecstatic when I found out that I was awarded the position. Now, since it was a temporary position, I continued working at my other full time job at the time – boy, was it a busy summer! It was definitely all worth it though! I gained so much experience with coordination and learned that I really REALLY enjoy coordinating. Once the summer was over, I had to say my goodbyes to all the amazing staff. Good byes are always hard when you know you’re leaving such amazing people.

I had my fingers crossed that another position would come up, something more permanent… I’m sure you can guess what happens next 😛.  A position came up that I was qualified for and I immediately applied for it! I have now been employed as permanent staff with DIVERSEcity since September 2015.  Working as an Intake Worker and Achieving Balance for Children counsellor (formerly Children Who Witness Abuse) has been such an amazing experience.  There are so many individuals that I come across that are faced with extremely difficult situations, yet show such resilience. Since I work in Counselling Services, I have also had the chance to be a part of many different projects and groups.  I have had the opportunity to be a part of a Senior South Asian and Arabic women’s group and Syrian Refugee Settlement and Trauma group to name a few.  I can definitely say that I learn something new from every experience that I have come across.

Working at DIVERSEcity, specifically with Counselling Services, has been such a blessing because of the many opportunities I have had the chance to be included in.  I couldn’t be happier to be a part of such an amazing environment, community, and team!

Introducing… LAURA!

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?
Laura Mannix and I am the Manager of Refugee and Specialized Programs.

Can you tell me about the programs you manage?
The Vulnerable Immigrant Populations Program – Moving Ahead is an intensive and holistic settlement program for refugee populations with complex needs. We offer one-on-one case management which assists clients with identifying and reaching their settlement goals such as accessing housing, language programs, employment, assistance with their health, and providing information and orientation about life in Canada. Attached to MAP is the VIPP Community Kitchens and nutrition program and there is also the VIPP Literacy and Essential Skills Program (read more about this in our interview with Crystal.) I also manage the Refugee Readiness Training portfolio which is a fee-for-service offered to other organizations and businesses in the community on how to work with refugee clients and how to make their services more accessible to this population. I also take care of all refugee related events such as World Refugee Day and the Bundle Up Campaign which is an annual donation drive for our clients.

How long have you been working at DIVERSEcity?
A year and a half.

Why do you do what you do?
My mom is from Egypt and her father had the foresight to leave Egypt at the time just before things had turned for the Christian population there. His family was well off living in Alexandria and he saw that things would be continue to be good for his lifetime but if they were to stay, the future would not be so bright for his kids. So, they decided to move to Australia to give their kids a brighter future.  Because of that decision my mom had the chance to be a working mom and woman, and to excel in a career to go on to earn even more than her husband. She was encouraged to do so and she was able to raise her children with those same aspirations and freedoms. If they had stayed in Egypt those wouldn’t have been afforded to her. I was born in Australia and I feel because I’ve been given the gift of education, wealth and determination – I need to give back. That is what led me to work with refugee populations. Not everyone is afforded these luxuries because of their geographic location. I want to dedicate my strength and contributions to helping those that are lucky enough to be able to start again. I’m incredibly grateful to be born in a country and in a position to thrive and to be educated, and to be a woman that can contribute to social justice matters. Why wouldn’t I use those attributes to help others get to same the point?

How do you spend most of your work time?
It’s pretty evenly balanced. I work with my team for the day-to-day programming of service delivery to vulnerable populations, and there is also collaborative time with other managers and community partners to ensure that the scope of our programs are significant and impactful. There is also a lot of communication with our funders to ensure we are identifying the needs of our clients and we are responding properly.

What advice do you have for your clients?
Come to all the workshops! Take advantage of all the programming because it [the Moving Ahead Program] is a holistic program. Be patient! Have reassurance that it takes time to understand your new community and home, and have confidence that one day, very soon, you will feel very comfortable and will be able to take the steps you need to have a thriving life here.

What advice do you have for someone interested in working population?
Volunteer! That is the best way to get direct insight into what it would be like to work with refugee populations and you can learn about what kinds of roles and services are available within this sector as well. I would recommend that you do this work if you are passionate about it; it’s not work you do because you fell into it. You need an understanding and working knowledge of the refugee experience. It’s for people who want to get a lot out of their work.

What do you find most enjoyable about your work?
Definitely my team! I work with an extremely dedicated team of individuals, some of whom are refugees themselves. They inspire me everyday. They are the ones who do the hardest aspects of front line work. It’s through their commitment that the program is so successful. The clients are amazing, too. Through different events we do I’m able to meet them and they’re wonderful and extremely grateful and determined. Also, the dynamic environment of the work that comes across my desk – no day is the same.

What are some of the challenges?
I think one of the biggest challenges is trying to communicate with the funder to give them a better understanding of what refugee clients experience and what realistic expectations should be of the clients.

What is the best thing about working at DIVERSEcity?
I feel like the staff are wonderfully warm and friendly, and very accepting. I think this sector draws certain  kinds of people to work here. Like the name suggests, it is wonderfully diverse. We always have a mosaic of folks from different places, offering different traditions and values and we’re always learning new things. The people are really wonderful here!

How do you de-stress?
I teach, and do a lot of, yoga. I also work out every morning by doing things like running and cycling to work up a good sweat. It helps me disconnect. I play music too – the guitar and ukulele!

What country or city would you like to visit?
My favourite city is Istanbul, Turkey. I would love to go there again.

What book are you currently reading or read last?
I am reading Damned Nations: Greed, Guns, Armies and Aid by Samantha Nutt. I just finished reading God in Pink by Hasan Namir.

Can you share something you are proud  of or a success you have had at DIVERSEcity?
One of the things I’m proud of is that we have implemented a fee-for-service program. It’s essentially a refugee readiness training program where our staff who work with refugee populations, some of whom are refugees themselves and have successfully created lives in Canada, go on to train businesses and other organizations on how to work with refugee populations and how to make their services more accessible to refugee populations. This initiative has given some team members the opportunity to develop a unique skill set to go on and present in a professional capacity. It has also enabled us to generate unrestricted funding. We use this funding to provide things for our clients that our government funding may not allow.

Has your job affected your lifestyle? Has it changed your outlook on life?
I’m more aware of the issues and challenges that come with refugee resettlement, particularly in Canada. In turn, it has heightened my awareness and need to want to do more work with refugee populations. It has encouraged me to do more advocacy and  volunteering. It has become a big part of my life.

What education, training, or knowledge is essential for work in this area?
There definitely needs to be an understanding of the issues refugees face. The working knowledge is essentially what you need.

What impresses you during an interview or on a resumé?
Experience is a big thing, regardless of it being personal or professional, just because it provides such a unique skill set. Not only do they need to have an understanding of the refugee experience and of the issues refugees face, but they also need to speak the language and understand the cultural norms of the clients they represent. They also need to understand Canadian systems and how to connect with clients. 

If you could talk to Justin Trudeau, what would you ask him to consider?
To treat all refugees from all places the same way.

If there was one thing you could tell the general public about refugees or immigrants/ get the public to understand about this population, what would it be?
That they don’t want to be here – they want to be in their home. They’re only here because if they were to go back home they would face persecution. The resiliency and strength of a refugee is unparalleled. When a government-assisted refugee comes to Canada, they are flown here and they have to pay for the flight – up to $10,000 for a family – and this transportation loan has to be repaid. 91% of refugees pay back this loan. It’s the highest repaid government loan of all the social services available! This highlights the resiliency of the refugee experience.

What is one of your pet peeves?

What is something quirky or interesting about yourself that  you would like to share?
I’m a really big fan of Rod Stewart!

Introducing… CRYSTAL!

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?
Crystal McFeetors. I am the Literacy and Essential Skills Learning Guide.

Can you tell me about the Moving Ahead Program’s (MAP) Literacy and Essential Skills Workshops?
The Moving Ahead Program offers clients two multi-leveled Literacy and Essential Skills workshops which are based on clients’ individual needs, interests and literacy abilities. These workshops are designed to enable those identified as Vulnerable Immigrants a more structured, supportive and sensitive environment in order to allow for a transition period so that once they are ready, they can successfully adjust to the more stringent expectations and independent learning environment of a LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) classroom setting.

How long have you been working at DIVERSEcity?
I’ve been here for almost 26 years – longer than anyone else!

Why do you do what you do?
Doing work that is socially significant is important to me. It’s important to me to be a front line worker and to work directly with individuals as opposed to being in an administrative or management role.

How do you spend most of your work time?
Either working directly with students or working on the development of the program. This includes things like deciding if the program structure needs to shift, developing classroom materials and also administrative tasks like attendance sheets, reports, and follow-up.

What advice do you have for your clients?
I encourage them to attend class regularly up to their ability. I try to get them to be self-motivated rather than having me tell them what to do.

What advice do you have for someone interested in working with vulnerable populations?
It really helps to understand the background of refugees, including things like the kind of life they’ve led and the trauma they might have had. It also helps to understand trauma and how it impacts people physically, emotionally, and how it affects their ability to learn.

What do you find most enjoyable about your work?
That you can directly see how you’re impacting individuals’ lives in a very positive way and also seeing the growth and change in individuals as they improve their literacy abilities and as they adjust to life in Canada.

What are some of the challenges?
Within this particular program, because all the students have individual literacy plans with many individualized needs, they need 1-on-1 help. Getting enough classroom support to each student is a challenge. Maintaining regular attendance with students who have multiple barriers and ongoing issues such as medical appointments is difficult as well.

What is the best thing about working at DIVERSEcity?
Definitely a lot of inspiring staff members who really care and go out of their way to help their clients. When you’re in an agency designed to help people, you attract employees who are more generous with their time and who are warm, caring individuals. The leadership we have is also very hardworking and have helped grow the agency.

What are your hobbies and interests and how do you de-stress?
Exercise! I bike on the weekends. Being in nature is important. I also spend lots of time with my kids. I’m very busy with 3 boys at home!

What country or city would you like to visit?
I’ve been to a lot of places all over the world. The next place I would like to visit is Italy and I would love to learn Italian before I go.

What book are you currently reading or read last?
Right now I’m reading book five of the Game of Thrones series. Two of my sons are reading it too, so it’s a way for us to connect.

Can you share something you are proud  of or a success you have had at DIVERSEcity?
Just that I’ve been here for so long and I’ve touched the lives of so many individuals. I’ve had students directly come to me and shared with me the impact I’ve had on their lives and that they appreciated my support, help and encouragement.

What has been surprising for you over the course of your career?
When I initially started teaching I considered myself to be an introvert, so I found it difficult to be in a role at the front of the class with all the attention focused on me. Teaching has changed me as a person – I’m definitely an extrovert now. I’ve also recognized a shift in seeing a student as a whole person rather than as just a student. It makes you a better person.

Has your job affected your lifestyle? Has it changed your outlook on life?
You have more empathy for people when you recognize the level of struggles that there are. I have gained more of an appreciation for our position as Canadians and how much we really have as Canadians. A lot of that is due to luck and life circumstances.

If you could get the general public to understand something about refugees and immigrants, what would it be?
The majority of refugees that I’ve seen are here because they are fleeing dangerous situations. They do not necessarily want to leave their country. They all want to have full lives as contributing citizens: they want to work, to be part of society and to be accepted by societies. They’re not just here on a free ticket.

What is one of your pet peeves?
When people react to news with fear, protectionism, and in a reactive way without really trying to educate themselves on a political situation.

Do you  have something interesting or quirky about yourself that you would like to share?
I have to have a banana with plain Greek yogurt every morning for breakfast.