Bridging a Sea of Opportunity via Volunteer MBC


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Bridging a Sea of Opportunity via Volunteer MBC

  1. 1. OVCN’s Volunteer Centre Spotlight Written by Kevin Sutton, Communications & Community Engagement Coordinator October 10, 2013 Bridging a Sea of Opportunity Volunteer MBC helps integrate international expertise into the Ontario Economy Business leaders recognize the value that New Canadians - especially skilled professionals - bring to Ontario’s economy. Beyond the innovative practices and much needed expertise, newcomers bring networks from their countries of origin that open up new investments, markets and trade routes. They also enhance the cultural diversity that Canadian companies require to navigate the global marketplace. However, when newcomers begin the process of settling in, many challenges arise. An essential part of their successful integration into Canadian culture is finding professional employment that matches their level of training and expertise. But newcomers often face difficulty getting their foreign credentials recognized and employers often require “Canadian experience” before hiring. When many new-comers arrive in Ontario, like Madhuri Payidiparty (a financial advisor back in India) and her husband (who holds a PhD in Chemistry), they are forced to take entry-level jobs outside of their field just to make ends meet (Payidiparty in the automotive sector and her husband as a shift-working general labourer). Navigating a new language, a new set of cultural values, and an array of complex and unforgiving bureaucracies can leave a wealth of international expertise, like that of the Payidiparty’s, grossly underutilized. The year of their arrival in 2004, The Conference Board of Canada estimates that this kind of lost productivity cost the Canadian economy between $3.4 and $5 billion. So how does Ontario overcome the barriers between New Canadians eager for the opportunity of the Canadian marketplace and a Canadian economy hungry to make use of their in-demand skillsets? As Shaminda Perera (who came to Canada as a training and development professional) discovered, there is indeed a bridge that leads newcomers towards the promise that a new life in Canada can provide: Volunteering. Half of all new Canadians choose Ontario for settlement (according to the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration), and no areas in Ontario have higher settlement rates than in the Region of Peel: In Mississauga, 51.6% of residents are newcomers; in Brampton, 47.8%; and Caledon, 20.8%. Not surprisingly, finding the right volunteer experience for newcomers has become somewhat of a specialty for the local volunteer centre, Volunteer MBC (Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon). Since their inception in September of 2008, Volunteer MBC has helped New Canadians find the volunteer experience that could set them on the path to success in their field of specialty here in Ontario. Through Volunteer MBC, in 2011 Perera connected with a volunteer opportunity as Volunteer MBC’s Program Assistant for the 2011 ChangeTheWorld campaign. ChangeTheWorld - Ontario Youth Volunteer Challenge is a province wide youth volunteer mobilization campaign funded by the Government of Ontario and delivered in partnership with Ontario Volunteer Centres Network. Not only was he able to gain some valuable Canadian experience, but he gained the chance to expand his network of friends and professional associates. “I was allowed to really soar with my capabilities and prove myself,” says Perera. And prove himself he did - soon becoming employed as a Referral Specialist at Volunteer MBC doing the kind of work he is passionate about: helping people to learn and grow. Since then, Perera has earned a promotion to Assistant Manager of Community Engagement and is responsible for managing the referral service across the entire Region of Peel, youth volunteer engagement in the Region, internal volunteer engagement with Volunteer MBC, as well as the Province-wide delivery of the Ontario Volunteer Centre Network’s “Volunteer Screening Train the Trainer” workshop series. “It feels rewarding to help any individual achieve their objectives, especially when they are facing challenges in blending in with the culture and the job market,” says Perera.
  2. 2. OVCN’s Volunteer Centre Spotlight Written by Kevin Sutton, Communications & Community Engagement Coordinator October 10, 2013 “They have taken the biggest risk of their lives in leaving it all behind in search of a better life. To me, it is pretty scary even to reflect on that but, at the same time it is awesome to realize that I have made it. And, so can others.” Among Volunteer MBC’s many success stories is Sukhjit Singh, who - in the face of unemployment - reached out to many community organizations, including Volunteer MBC with his technological expertise and went on to become a Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award recipient. As for Payidiparty? “I had heard that volunteering might give me the Canadian experience I needed to put on my resume,” she says. “And give me an opportunity to further practice my English.” Payidiparty began volunteering at Volunteer MBC as an Office Administrative Assistant in 2010. Now, she is employed as their Office & Referral Coordinator and helps seniors, students, and new Canadians, like herself, find the right volunteer opportunities. “Volunteering has given me back my life – my self-confidence and it has led me towards a meaningful career with a lot of purpose,” says Payidiparty. “My husband landed his dream job with a pharmaceutical company and we now can say that Canada is truly our home.” When new Canadians arrive at the doors of Volunteer MBC, they are greeted by seasoned professionals with international expertise who can relate to their experiences and challenges. The Volunteer Centre’s staff know first-hand the path to successful integration into Canadian culture through volunteering. They can help newcomers - and the Ontario economy - make the most out of newcomers’ talents and skills. And, most of all, they enable New Canadians to truly call Ontario their home. To find meaningful volunteer opportunities in the Region of Peel, or for more information on how Volunteer MBC is helping New Canadians realize their dreams visit: To read another great newcomer success story about Volunteer MBC’s Office Manager, Marina Campos, visit: Further resources for engaging New Canadians visit: Ontario Volunteer Centre Network: volunteers?ref= Volunteer Canada: Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration: Canadian Newcomer Magazine: -30- Ontario Volunteer Centre Network c/o Volunteer MBC, 7700 Hurontario Street, Unit 601, Brampton, ON L6Y 4M3 (905) 238-2622 x229 For more information about ChangeTheWorld visit