Building Confidence and a Gateway to Employment
Spend just 5 minutes with Nadine Azzam, and you will discover how quickly and wonderfully she has adopted Canada as her new home. And indeed, Canada sure seems to have adopted her.
The journey here from the Middle East was not easy by any means. Her family’s roots are in 1948 Palestine, and her father saw himself relocating to Lebanon, then to Kuwait where Nadine was born and lived until her emigration to Canada.
In December, 2017, she joined her 2 sons (now young adults) in Montreal. She sighs about the early days on Canadian soil, “No car, no job, and really a struggle.” She soon recognized that her family’s anxiety about settling in was shared by many newcomers. Then, in June, 2018, they decided to move to Ontario, and Brampton.
The inevitable inquiry to Nadine in preparation for writing her story was a request to provide a ‘personal history’ of volunteering. Unlike many other volunteers profiled in I Care… I Volunteer, before approaching Volunteer MBC in the latter half of 2018, Nadine really had not had a volunteering experience. The closest that she had come, when working in Kuwait (in computer software and human resources), was to organize employee and public events (‘open houses’) for her employers, as an unpaid benefit to them.
How and why did she approach Volunteer MBC? From an online search, Nadine gathered from the website that being matched as a volunteer in her new community could add to her awareness and knowledge of ‘Canadian ways’, with networking, plus she reasoned that a match might very well lead to a job. Her belief in these possibilities proved absolutely correct on both counts.
Looking back, Nadine notes two aspects of her experience with Volunteer MBC: The warm welcome and high degree of understanding regarding her circumstances, needs, and goals; and the fact that services (recommendations of suitable volunteering opportunities) were provided so quickly and effectively. Her conclusions about the level of service and the system for delivery are right to the point, “I found that if I moved quickly, and I did, to act on the recommendations by making applications to various community service organizations through Volunteer MBC, those organizations were incredibly responsive. If you personally follow through, I found that you’ll be facilitated and get a result.”
Azzam’s recommended volunteering opportunities saw her flourish in short order. Through a local Rotary club in Mississauga, she was able to improve their organization, and her office problem-solving skills, and effectiveness ultimately came to the notice of a Mississauga MPP, Natalia Kusendova (pictured above on the left), who has taken Nadine on in a paid role at the MPP’s local constituency office. Nadine is all smiles when she enthusiastically recounts the long hours helping and ‘troubleshooting’ requests from residents in the Mississauga Centre riding, freely acknowledging and acting on Kusendova’s genuine concern for her constituents.
Rotary has not been the only opportunity that Nadine has pursued. Well-known Regeneration Outreach Community in Brampton has had her volunteering in its kitchen on weekends, which led to her cooking Arabic cuisine in a local, affiliated church, and lo and behold, the congregation offered her a job, too! (Nadine still collects donations from outside locations for Regeneration.)
Nadine freely admits that all these things have happened remarkably quickly, yet she credits Volunteer MBC for building her confidence to become involved in her new community and for providing a ‘gateway’ to employment. That having been said, she leaves the message, “Get engaged, Follow through. Take volunteering, particularly the process by which you can become involved, seriously!”
And Nadine Azzam is living testament to the great things that can come about as a result.