You are currently viewing Welcoming includes seizing opportunities, big and small, to see each other and work together

Welcoming includes seizing opportunities, big and small, to see each other and work together

One way to welcome newcomers is to volunteer in newcomer-serving organizations. Our volunteer mentors at JVS Toronto have helped more than 2000 newcomers to Canada feel welcome in the past 7 years, by connecting with them and helping them prepare for their new life in Canada before arriving.

In the following article, Michèle Thibeau, a mentor with Canada InfoNet discusses the challenges faced by newcomers to Canada, especially regarding finding work and accommodation, and shares her input on what communities need to do to be more welcoming.

We likely do not always take into consideration the difference we can make through a simple connection. We are changed through acting upon the opportunity that lies in the heart of every challenge.

Seizing an opportunity, big or small, requires having a good understanding of the situation and access to accurate information. Without these, it’s difficult to make the best decision.

The same goes for our friends, colleagues, and neighbours in the midst of reinventing themselves here in Canada. We need to be truthful about the reality of becoming established here, especially when it’s difficult and complicated. When we do, it creates space to collaborate on a better plan.

This is at the heart of Canada InfoNet’s work to connect professionals, to build and leverage networks and communities based on shared career experience and interests.

So what do former Canada InfoNet participants think communities could do to be more welcoming to newcomers? I reached out to some participants whom I mentored to find out. Four individuals who arrived between Summer 2021 and Fall 2022 and live in urban settings shared their responses with me.

The truth about the accommodation situation

“Be more upfront and helpful about the challenges involved in finding work and accommodations.”

While many Canadians are faced with a lack of affordable accommodation, combined with high interest rates and inflation, newcomers to Canada can be especially vulnerable as they take their first big steps with a limited understanding of the situation.

How can we, as a community, better prepare individuals to anticipate and navigate this situation? Better yet, how do we ensure everyone is included in the development and delivery of forward-looking solutions in housing and accommodation?

Insights into the simple things

“Simple things: how do you get around, what are the requirements for renting accommodation, how do you convert your driving licence, how do you take the bus, what are the practices in private and public companies?”

Moving means figuring out so many things, not the least of which is how to get around. There are so many simple things that become second nature once we know where to look for the answer. Before then, a little help from a friend can go a long way.

An opportunity to meet each other and build social connections

“From my experience, building social connections is very difficult. The way houses and plazas are built here, I find it harder to connect to strangers.”

Communities have an opportunity to be more welcoming by hosting “more social activities so that new immigrants can get to make friends and discover the beauty of this country and its people.”

How can we better prepare newcomers to learn where to find the right information?

What I love about meeting people on the platform is connecting and figuring out what I can share of value that will enable them to prepare to reinvent themselves and their career. It’s motivating and there is always so much to learn. Our connection builds confidence for the next one.

We begin with sharing part of our story. Daring to be vulnerable in this safe, co-created space. Removing the barrier of being invisible that comes with being new. Talking about strategies and resilience in the opportunity of reinventing. This, too, is community.

We need all our skills, experience, knowledge and curiosity to be in play. Thanks to Canada InfoNet, there’s a space where we can connect.

Here’s to making time for building community, saying hello to each other, and asking how we can lend a hand during this year’s Welcoming Week, September 8 to 17, 2023.