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!

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

Dianne: A Day at DIVERSEcity

In the month that I have been at DIVERSEcity, I have found that no two days are the same. There are so many different departments, programs and specializations to learn about and there is always much to be planned and to take part in. Working as a Human Resources intern, my days tend to be filled with project work, meetings, training sessions and catch-ups with colleagues.

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Good days start with coffee

9:00a     –      While there is no actual “typical day” I usually start by grabbing a coffee from the lunch room and reading emails that have come through from the previous evening. Once I am done replying to emails, I will update my to-do list and decide on what I aim to accomplish that day.

9:30a     –      I will typically begin with assisting Cindy, the HR manager, with any tasks that she has brought to my attention. This could be helping her with research, scheduling, or any other administrative tasks.

10:30a   –      One project that I am currently working on is assessing the professional development training of the Settlement and Community Programs staff. I came up with an idea to attain information from the staff on what their preferences are when it comes to training, so I created a short survey to be included in the training analysis booklets that would be distributed to the entire department.

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Completed training booklets

11:00a   –      Part of this same project was to copy and print 25 booklets for all the staff. However, I had a bit of a printing mishap 😦 All of the printed pages did not sort properly, and in the end I had a HUGE stack of paper that went page 1,1,1,1,1 (25 times), then page 2,2,2,2,2 (another 25 times), and so on, all the way to page 55! What a pain! Luckily, I asked my desk buddy Amy to help me out. We booked a meeting room and spread the papers out over all of the desks and we were able to organize all the booklets pretty quickly. I will never make that mistake again!

12:00p   –      I prepared and organized the Wellness Committee binder by adding an updated members list and printing all recent email communications regarding Wellness related activities, such as the plans for an upcoming Lunch & Learn where a Holistic Nutritionist will be presenting!

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12:30p   –      I have recently moved and I’m still in the process of unpacking, which has made it hard for me to pack my own lunches. Because of this, I will usually run out for my lunch, but not before checking the lunch room to see if anyone has brought any snacks or sweets to share (this is a pretty common thing here)!

1:00p     –      I got to sit in on the organization’s monthly Wellness Committee meeting. This committee promotes health and wellness within the company by holding events and activities that are fun and educational.

2:00p     –      I had a short meeting with Cindy where she showed me how the organization’s recruiting process works. I even got to help post few job openings!

3:30p     –      Time to go home! The days here are just whizzing by so fast and I am learning so much!

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?

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

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Amy: Canada Day BBQ!

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Last week we had a staff BBQ lunch for Canada Day. As someone new I was really excited to see everyone together as a whole, in a social environment.

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It was the perfect day for a BBQ!

At 11:30 everyone who was interested was invited upstairs to the roof (yes we had a rooftop BBQ!) for the singing of O Canada. The coolest part was it was being sung in different languages.

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Look at all these sweet people. Everyone is so kind and thoughtful, there is no better representation of Canadians! Visit our Facebook page to see the video here.

Dianne and I were stationed the door to hand out food tickets. Again, the perfect opportunity to learn names ^_^ Although after awhile all the names and faces blurred together… we have a lot of staff, okay?!

People had signed up for the type of burger and a time slot for when they wanted their food a few ago, but since many people came up for the O Canada singing, they also stayed to get their food tickets and lined up for food. This caused a bit of a bit of a kerfuffle because some people who did sign up for the first time slot weren’t able to get their food. Now we know for next time, people need to stick to their time slots. Lucky me was still able to get my veggie burger on time though 🙂

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The main event of the day was a hat contest! A few of the participants really went all out and decked out their hats.

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We had three lovely judges decide winners for the most original, prettiest, and funniest.

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The winners were….

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Congratulations ladies!

Everyone got to mingle a bit while having lunch and we finished off with some yummy cake.

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It was a great time. I hope everyone had a fun and relaxing Canada Day! Just a few more weeks until BC Day 😉