Humans of Skills for Change is a series highlighting the driving force and inspiration behind our organization: OUR PEOPLE. Through this online campaign, we are featuring people who we work with and serve at Skills for Change

Skills for Change has been serving immigrants and refugees for over 36 years. Our wide range of programs and services support newcomers, refugees, youth, women, seniors, and job-seekers.  #HumansofSkillsforChange is a celebration and recognition of the unique skills and contributions of the people that we work with and people that we serve.

Consider joining us by donating to our campaign and support our work of building welcoming and equitable communities. 

Kateryna (also known as Kate) is a Marketing and Events Assistant at Skills for Change. Kateryna is a newcomer who moved to Canada from Ukraine three years ago. She began her relationship with Skills for Change as a client by participating in our mentoring program back in March. By June, she joined our marketing team and is now an integral member of our organization.

Back home in Ukraine, Kate was a University lecturer and taught at Donbas National Academy of Civil Engineering and Architecture. There, Kate worked with a team on economic research and was also the editorial manager of the Academy’s leading science-based magazine.

Kate says that she has always been equally passionate about both creative design and economics. At Skills for Change, she’s the creative mastermind behind our graphic design work and helps coordinate our events.

#HumansofSkillsforChange

Orpah is a Programs Specialist for the Health Informatics program at Skills for Change. She was born and raised in Kenya and moved to Canada in 2017.

Some of Orpah’s favourite things about her home country are “The People. The Food and The Vibe.”

“I love the energy that Kenyans carry with them. It is hard to describe. It is a feeling!”

Orpah has some surprising revelations about her professional past. “Not a lot of people know this about me because I have tried to keep it hush-hush,” she says (trying not to laugh). “But when I was younger, I had my own nationally broadcasted Television show in Kenya for about four years. I hosted a show called Children’s Variety. Sometimes, as an adult, some people look at me and say ‘you look really familiar’ which is always really funny to me.”

Orpah is also an internationally trained pharmacist by trade and has completed her Master’s Degree in Health Economics and Health Policy. Before joining Skills for Change, she was a Health Policy Analyst at the government level. “I’m very passionate about leveraging policy and technology in the healthcare space. It’s amazing how far technology has come! To use it to effect change in healthcare is inevitable,” she says.

Orpah enjoys time with family and has a big love for animals. She always had pets and she is currently in the process of adopting an adorable little Cornish Rex kitten that she and her husband are planning on naming Solo (a Star Wars reference, of course!)

#HumansofSkillsforChange

Nicole is the Human Resources Assistant at Skills for Change. She came to Canada recently from Antigua, a Caribbean Island in the West Indies. Nicole describes her native home as “a tropical island where the weather is beautiful and the people are relaxed”. According to Nicole, the biggest difference between Toronto and Antigua is the “hustle and bustle” of the city life – something she is now growing more accustomed to.

In Antigua, Nicole worked in the banking industry for a number of years specializing in customer service. “It opened up my mind to a lot of things,” she says. ” When you’re dealing with people, you realize that we are all customers and that we all deserve to be treated with respect.”

After going back to school for Human Resources Management in Toronto, Nicole discovered Skills for Change through the organization’s annual Diversity at Work Conference. “I liked what I heard. I really enjoyed my experience there. And when the time came around, I started my school placement at Skills for Change because I really believed in the work and the mission.”

When asked what it is she liked about working at Skills for Change, Nicole responded, “We care. We care for people by ensuring that each person feels welcomed, supported and at home here in Canada. Being an immigrant myself, this approach really speaks to me.”

Outside of work, Nicole is a health enthusiast and enjoys anything to do with health and nature. She is also a spiritual person and goes to a Protestant church on Saturdays. One of the things that Nicole loves about going to the church is being reminded of the message that some values should not change in a world that’s ever-changing – values such as honesty, integrity and being kind-hearted.”

She said before pausing, “The bottom line is love. It is all about love.”

#HumansofSkillsforChange

Lynda is an Intake Counselor for the ELT Program at Skills for Change. She has an impressive education, including a doctorate degree from l’Université de Montréal.

Lynda was born in Toronto, and when she was only a year old, she moved with her family to a farmhouse in the countryside north of Belleville. Out in the rural Ontario countryside, she attended one of the very last historic two-room schoolhouses in Canada.

Lynda has a long history of teaching and helping others. She started as an academic tutor while she was pursuing her undergraduate studies.

One of her first teaching positions was at an elementary school teaching French for Kindergarten to grade four classes in the small town of Eganville, Ontario.

Soon after that, Lynda went back to school to earn her Ph.D. in Montreal. After successfully completing her doctorate, she went on to become a professor at the University of Windsor and Nipissing University where she taught French.

In April of 2009, Lynda left the teaching world and began her work with Skills for Change as a Language Assessor.

“I feel that I have had a lot of advantages and blessings in my life,” says Lynda, in her typical, serious tone.

“One of these blessings was being born in Canada, and I want to make sure that all newcomers are able to take advantage of the benefits of living in Canada. I have been a teacher, an assessor, and an intake counsellor – the common thread through my life is that I want to be able to help others.”

There’s no arguing that Lynda has a history of helping others through her work. Everyone who knows her knows she’s an excellent teacher and mentor.

In her spare time, Lynda practices martial arts and has earned her second-degree black belt. She’s a true sweetheart, and that black belt means she’ll definitely have your back!

#HumansofSkillsforChange

Barbara is an Employment Counsellor at the Skills for Change Employment Ontario West office. She was born in Lisbon, Portugal and arrived in Canada on Mother’s Day when she was one-year-old. She has been able to travel back and forth between Toronto and Lisbon every year while growing up.

“Sometimes it feels like I am in a limbo. When I am in Canada, people point out my accent ­- and when I am back home, they do the same. So, sometimes, I feel like I do not belong anywhere.”

“But when I am back home in Portugal with my family, I feel like I connect. My roots are there. And when I come back to Canada, I honestly feel like that this is the place where I belong. It’s like having two homes.”

“Toronto is just very fast-paced. It is always about finishing one task and then getting to another. In Portugal, there’s more of an emphasis on taking the time to enjoy family and friends. I miss that component when I am here.”

On Barbara’s 19th birthday, she got a phone call from Skills for Change about an administrative position that she had applied for. She was hired and began her journey at Skills for Change as an Administrative Assistant before becoming an Information Officer. She was then hired as an Employment Advisor and now is a Employment Counsellor at Skills for Change.

“I always feel like the most important aspect of Skills for Change is our focus on helping people and supporting their specific needs. No matter what happens in my day, I remember that one client who has that great success story. And to know that I was a part of that journey, and that interaction and connection, it gives me the energy to do what I do.”

Outside of work, Barbara loves to exercise, cooking and watching cooking shows. In fact, a few years ago she competed on the cooking show “Come Dine with Me” on W Channel!

#HumansofSkillsforChange

Tania is the receptionist and much-loved first face of Skills for Change. While she may have been Canadian born, she also spent a lot of her childhood growing up in Antigua, a small island in the Caribbean. Before she’s even asked to describe it, Tania’s smile brightens as she begins to paint us a picture of her second home.

“It’s so beautiful there,” Tania says, “it’s a small island and everyone knows each other. It’s tropical all year round… we like to boast that we have got three hundred and sixty-five beautiful beaches.”

It happens to be a cold and rainy autumn day in Toronto, but we can almost feel the Antigua sunshine from the way Tania describes it. When asked if she has any plans of visiting again in the future, Tania doesn’t hesitate, “I go home as often as I can,” she says with a smile.

Tania loves helping others and is a self-described people-person. After she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from York University she quickly found work helping others by coordinating nursing and home support for a local community agency. She also gained experience working in the addiction and mental health field in Antigua.

“I love working with the individual and it’s important to me that I can be an advocate for positive change,” she says. This is how she first found herself becoming involved with Skills for Change.

“I first heard of Skills for Change when I returned from Antigua and was researching how to upgrade my skills. I started following the agency and realized that I really believed in what Skills for Change stood for. I loved the idea of working with newcomers and helping them to succeed. That was my motivation for working here. I love to hear the success stories of our clients when they find meaningful work.”

Outside of working with Skills for Change, Tania is also a visual artist. She paints with watercolours and stores her work in the Caribbean.

#HumansofSkillsforChange