Dunia Hafez

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Dunia Hafez

DuniaThe word “Dunia” in the Arabic language was once used to describe the life closest to us, or the life in this world. It is also Dunia’s name. Her story is about bridging her life between two worlds – one in the Middle East and another, in Canada.

Dunia Hafez had earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature earned in Abu Dahbi, and a master’s degree in Educational Technology in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Yet she was now experiencing life in Canada as a refugee claimant, looking for work and ineligible for a program she thought could really help her family.

“I came from a very good economic status, but this time I needed to support my husband who was going to school,” she explains.

Settlement was a huge barrier for her. She had started looking for work immediately, and it was only her second week in Canada. There were no family or friends to support her. She did not drive and transporting and caring for her kids while looking everywhere for a job was extremely hard on her. Dunia was suffering.

“I was depressed. I had left a whole life to start a completely new one.”

While lonely and afraid Dunia believed her faith in God, and as a mother and wife she would have the power to make some changes and that the dark cloud that enveloped her would pass.

In two months, Dunia found work at a daycare near her home when another turn of events led her in the direction she had wanted to go in the first place. She was laid off after 8 months and was able to access Employment Insurance. She had connected with Women’s Enterprise Skills Training (WEST), and was notified of the Science Engineering Art and Technology program for Youth, known as SEAT, and offered to take part in it as a volunteer.

A shift in her life began to unfold during a conversation with Seita Sadoo-Thomas, a Program Coordinator at WEST.

“I thought I couldn’t do anything or work anywhere, says Dunia. “She told me my teaching experience was a gift and that I could use my personal experience in so many fields.”

As she volunteered with the SEAT program, Dunia learned about the problems people were experiencing in her new community and the opportunity to participate in creating solutions. She took field trips with the group and networked with other women. Her inner thoughts began to mirror her experiences and her thoughts changed.

“I wanted to be more than a participant in a program. I wanted to work to help people and I felt I could make a difference in this world.”

When the opportunity arose for a position, Dunia was able to convince her employer that her educational experience, and her community volunteer experience with the SEAT program would make her a positive fit for a job as a Participant Services Specialist in Employment Services.

“As a newcomer, SEAT gave me the exposure I needed to the other Canadians in my community and the job market,” explains Dunia.

The takeaways for Dunia, are three lessons she hopes others can learn from her life journey so far:

“Stay strong. Never doubt your abilities and look for the right person to support you.”

And these are the same messages she passes on to others to help them overcome barriers and create a world where there are more opportunities for everyone.


Kay (Kyung Eun) Park

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Kay (Kyung Eun) Park

KayKay (Kyung Eun) Park lifts her hands to shoulder height, opens her chest and says: “Do the Chicken!” with an easy smile. She has just delivered child after child back to the room from diaper changes, washed her hands, set out toys, dodged little ones on their way to playing with each other and is giving me advice about how to keep my back healthy. Park is working as a Registered Early Childhood Educator (RECE) creating engaging activities for children from around the world while their newcomer mother’s learn English and training skills for new opportunities. It is a whole different picture than she thought possible.

If her life were a film you could rewind back to the past, you would have found this South Korean professional graduating with a degree in Mandarin and working in China as a Bank Manager. Not a dream job, but a profitable one. Her life changed when she came to Canada and things rapidly shifted downward. She had gone to school for her dream job working with children and injured her back and quit her first job in Canada.

“I was scared about my future, I was still young and needed to work.” I was asking myself: “If I can’t find a job, how am I going to live in Canada?”

One day, while she was walking down the street she and happened to glance at a sign saying Employment at Women’s Enterprise Skills Training, Inc. (WEST). Opening that door was the beginning of a life shift for Kay.
She says each service moved her towards feel prepared for more success.
“I had a counsellor who was helping me to improve my interview skills and search for jobs.” The same counsellor recommended training in computer courses and Enhanced Language training.
During the graduation ceremony, Kay had a sense she was moving forward. She hoped for a job at WEST in the daycare and was successful when the job was posted.

Kay writes: “I think having a positive way of thinking and meeting people helped me, too.”
For Kay, a more gender equal world is one where she found and used resources and a great attitude to become more powerful economically, and to be a positive force for goodness in the lives of the children and people she works with every day.


Parvinder Kaur

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Parvinder Kaur

ParvinderIf you ever felt certain you had the right skills but were lost as to how to get a job in your field, you have a sense of how Parvinder Kaur felt when she arrived in Windsor. It was a four hour drive from Toronto and a long way from where she had expected to end up as far as her career was concerned.

She had accepted a full-time job using her strong accounting background and was thrilled to have a solid employment within days of settling in Canada – a place she refers to as “this beautiful country”.

Her husband was also offered a job in Windsor. The couple decided it was a good opportunity. It was also a loss for Parvinder, and although she had no idea how she might reach her goals she was willing to try.

“Regardless of my economic situation, I always wanted to contribute to my family,” she explains.

After spending days going to a variety of private colleges and looking at the cost of educational options it was clear to Parvinder and her husband that there was no way they could afford thousands of dollars to help her enter her sector here. They decided to see if there were any settlement services that offered programs to overcome the obstacles preventing her from accessing the job market, including not having a professional network and Canadian work experience.

At Women’s Enterprise Skills Training (WEST), Parvinder found a menu of services and professional support from settlement counselling to how to get her language skills assessed, a course that provides Enhanced Language Training for Finance, and a volunteer placement working in her field at an esteemed local non-profit organization. It was the placement which proved to be the key element that moved her life towards economic stability.

“I enhanced my skills, along with, my confidence in myself,” says Parvinder.

Working in partnership with the Hospice of Windsor and Essex County, Women’s Enterprise Skills Training (WEST) provided a placement experience in the financial operations office. Parvinder’s crowning moment was still to come. It was the day she offered a full-time position as a Junior Financial Analyst at The Hospice of Windsor and Essex County.

“Dedication and determination can help you achieve your goals,” explains Parvinder and adds that accessing community resources and volunteerism can make the difference between arriving where you want to be or not.