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How job support is helping refugees feel more at home in Ottawa


At United Way Ottawa, we believe everyone deserves a chance at a great life, no matter where they’re from.

That’s why, in October of 2015, we embarked on a new campaign to respond to an important and urgent need: supporting the sponsorship and settlement of refugees of the Syrian crisis.

These refugees escaped what is the worst humanitarian crisis of our generation, and it was – and still is – vital that we ensure each and every person is welcomed as an important part of our community and supported so they can truly build a better life – for themselves and for their children.

Our community helped raise over $900 thousand dollars for United for Refugees – an initiative formed by United Way Ottawa, the Ottawa Community Foundation, Mayor Jim Watson and the City of Ottawa, and Refugee 613. To those most in need, these donations were a lifeline.

To ensure that resources were invested where they were needed most and would have the greatest impact, United Way led a Community Based Allocation Committee to determine the most efficient and effective way to distribute funds.

After careful assessment by 10 volunteer experts who have an in-depth understanding of our community and refugee settlement and sponsorship, donations were invested in a wide range of supports. These included top-up funds for private sponsorship groups and programs that support the successful integration and settlement of refugees.

One of these was the World Skills Roadmap to Employment (RTE) program, which aims to facilitate the integration of Syrian refugees into the Ottawa labour market.

Roadmap to Employment Group photo

The program was created thanks to a $109,860 grant from the United for Refugees fund – the initiative’s largest investment. It was later enhanced and expanded thanks to the Community Foundation of Canada’s Welcome Fund for Syrian refugees.

From July 2016 to June 2017, 252 RTE clients were actively engaged with employment counselling, workshops, application assistance, targeted recruitment events and networking opportunities.

The program has established partnerships with a range of community stakeholders, including a group of eager employers across Ottawa who are actively looking for talent in their qualified client pool.

To date, 95 RTE clients have successfully found employment.

One year on: A celebration of success

To celebrate their accomplishments, RTE clients and their families gathered at World Skills Employment Centre to share their stories of overcoming employment challenges and finding meaningful work in their new city.

For many of the clients, finding a job is much more than finding a means to make money to support their families – it’s about finding a sense of purpose, a renewal of confidence, a place to belong and an outlet to escape the horrors they faced in their journeys to build a better life.

These are some of their stories:

In Syria, Taysir was a carpenter by trade, but chose to pursue a new type of job when he arrived in Ottawa – someplace where he could speak to customers regularly and improve his English.

He now works at a local flower shop, where he gets to meet and interact with people in his neighbourhood on a daily basis.

“World Skills helped me integrate into my community and have hope to continue my search for a job,” he says, through an interpreter.  “Without them, I would have no hope.”

Believe in the dream

When Abdel-Raouf arrived in Canada, he says he felt as though his future was behind him.

At first, he slipped into a depression. The differences between his home country and the new city he would now call home were shocking.

“I would ask people here what can I do to introduce myself to other people, how can I find a job, how can I make anything for this society,” he recalls.

After finding the RTE program through a local job fair, Abdel-Raouf has gone up two levels in his English language skills and plans to one day become a translator.

“It was my dream back in Syria,” he says.

A photo of Abdel

For now, thanks to a targeted recruitment event organized through the RTE program, Abdel-Raouf has found a stable job as a product demonstrator for a local Costco Warehouse. He and his wife has even started their own small business, catering events with homemade Syrian foods and desserts.

Raed was the first RTE client to find employment. After registering as a client with World Skills’ RTE program, he immediately got to work with staff to create his resume.

Raed attended ‘Interview Roulette’ sessions where he had the opportunity to practice job interview answers with qualified HR professionals, as well as workplace orientation workshops that helped boost his confidence when speaking to local employers.

He says the program made him feel better prepared to integrate into the Canadian workplace culture and understand employer expectations.

Raed found a job as a gardener, which, he says, was a perfect fit.

“It is the same job I used to do at home, nothing has changed, so I feel at home,” he says.

A photo of Raed and his family

I feel at home

Helping newcomers build a better life in Ottawa

Nearly 80% of Ottawa’s population growth comes from newcomers. By recognizing and engaging their skills and knowledge, our city can flourish from the incredibly positive cultural and economic contributions that they bring.

United Way is committed to investing in programs and services that help our city’s newcomers fulfill personal aspirations by finding jobs that match their skills, achieve financial independence, build social networks and find a sense of belonging to our community




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