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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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 dflores@dcrs.ca

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A friend took a photo of me on my way to DIVERSEcity
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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!

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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.

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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!

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

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

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“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… LEO!

What is your name and role at DIVERSEcity?
Leo Ramirez and I am the Community Kitchen Coordinator for the New Immigrants Program.

How long have you been working at DIVERSEcity?
Almost 8 months!

What inspired you to work here/why do you do what you do?
I have worked around food security with different ethnic groups and immigrants in the past.  When I saw the open position here I applied because food security is one of my passions and working with new immigrants is really interesting because I can help them in different ways to adapt to a new country. It reminds me of myself when I came to Canada 28 years ago and I understand the process of adapting into a new culture, country, language, and weather.

How do you spend most of your work time?
I plan menus for the community kitchens, set up the cooking stations, go to the supermarket to buy the ingredients, and I organize workshops related to food security and field trips with participants.

What are the field trips like?
They are field trips related to food security, so for instance if a community kitchen group is interested in going to the food bank, we will take a trip there. The workshops focus on food security, food systems, farming, and community gardens. The other part of the program is the cooking sessions.

What advice do you have for your clients?
To learn English because English is the key. Get the education and try to get the equivalent of your degree when you get here. That will allow you, in some cases, to get into the profession that you were in before. Try to understand Canadian culture and eat Canadian food because it is important to start experiencing the food you find here – it’s what you will be eating! There will be foods you liked before you came to Canada that you may not be able to find here. In central America there are 6 different varieties of oranges, bananas, pineapples, and specific fruits you won’t find here and you miss those things. You have to try new fruits. For example, we don’t have apples or grapes in central America. We eat apples and grapes during special occasions like Christmas because they are expensive and need to be imported. We have 1-2 apples for Christmas, but here you find apples everywhere, but you can’t find mangoes all year round.

What advice do you have for someone interested in working with this population?
My advice is to learn about their culture. Be updated about what’s going on in their countries of origin because that will help you to understand exactly what those people are going through and the reasons why they are coming to Canada. Having that information on hand will help you design programs that are truly related to what they are going through and how they can adapt to Canada.

Do you find language is an issue in your programs?
It is, because some of the participants are very new and don’t speak English, so we have volunteers to help us interpret.

What do you find most enjoyable about your work?
Working with the settlement workers that are coming from different parts of the world. This gives me the opportunity to learn more about different countries. I’ve met people here from Palestine, the Philippines, Korea, and from other countries around the world. Even from Africa! This building is like the United Nations! The variety of people I work with is great – it’s nice to learn from other cultures, and they learn from Latin American countries too. It’s fun.

What are some of the challenges you face in fulfilling your role?
The main challenge is communication because I’m working with different ethnic groups who speak different languages, but I only speak Spanish and English. 

What do you like to do outside of work and how do you de-stress?
My profession before coming here has become my hobby. I used to be a radio broadcaster. Right now I have a radio show on CITR 101.9 FM – UBC’s radio station. The show is Monday from 5-6 PM and is about Latin Americans. We play Latin American music and I do interviews with local musicians. I have been doing this since 2000  – 16 years!

Do you do your show by yourself?
Yes I am the producer and the host of the Leo Ramirez Show. I love communications, sometimes I write articles for newspapers in El Salvador.

So you studied journalism?
Yes in El Salvador, and then at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ontario. I lived in southern Ontario for a few years.

What country or city would you like to visit?
Barcelona in Spain.

Have you been there before?
No but I hope to visit that city some time soon.

Did you travel a lot while you lived in El Salvador?
To Costa Rica and Mexico.

What books are you currently reading or read last?
I read articles from different sources, mostly newspapers, but there is one book I like called The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

Can you share something you are proud of/or a success you had at DIVERSEcity?
I’m proud of having a food security program because food security is important, especially for newcomers because the food system we have here is not sustainable. The way we produce food in the farms here costs a lot of money and in some places pesticides are still used. Right now greenhouses are going in a different direction. For example, nature has 4 seasons and tomatoes, for instance, grow in a particular season. Greenhouses grow tomatoes the whole year by creating an artificial environment that allows tomatoes to grow – but they are not related to nature because they are growing in artificial environments.

Food security allows us to learn and understand these things. It’s cheaper for big corporations to import vegetables from Mexico than to support local farmers. When you go to supermarket, a bunch of radishes costs 50 cents, but when they buy them from Mexico they are paying 2-3 cents per bunch. They are making a lot of profit. When you go to the farmers market you are probably paying $1 for the same radishes. The cost of production is higher here and the laws allow the food system we have in place to create profit but they don’t really care if we get sick or not. Food security is important because it allows citizens to really understand the food system.

If you go into any supermarket, 70% of the  food is processed. Processed foods use GMOs or chemicals to make their product. We are eating GMOs products without knowing what’s going on, and this is discussed in the Food Security Program. I’m very proud of this program because it helps people become more aware of things. The Community Garden part of this program helps people grow their own food.

What are your pet peeves?
When someone else is using the sink to wash dishes, then someone else comes along and needs to wash their hands and pushes you aside. Why do people do this? Why do they think they have the right to push you aside? I’m going to write a book and talk to psychologists about this.

Something quirky or interesting about yourself you’d like to share?
I think Leo Ramirez is someone who is very committed to making things happen. I see myself as a community developer because I have experience working with communities. I like making things fun so people can enjoy the activities and programs. And I love music. Music is the queen of my soul – no music no work! I’m just a Latin American guy who loves music, has a passion for radio, and is a community developer.

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.