International Women’s Day

Sarah Ahsan SWIS News

International Women’s Day is celebrated all over the world on March 8th every year. It is a day to celebrate the social, cultural, economic and political achievements of women. And to raise awareness about women’s equality.

The day was celebrated virtually by SWIS (Settlement Workers in Schools) with the parents from Rose Avenue Public School on March 8th in the St. Jamestown Community. The event was well attended. There were cultural dance and singing performances and celebrated women who have positively influenced our lives. The participants got some good tips about self-care and healthy diet plans from a dietitian.

Although we were all separated due to COVID 19, there was a strong sense of togetherness and community through our virtual celebration. The participants were thankful for arranging the event and praised the performances.

Action and Adaptability Lead to Opportunity

Aqeela Saddiqui Cybersecurity Training Program, Find a Job News

An Indian-born Chaitali worked as a Software Quality Analyst for six years after completing a Master’s Degree in Computer Applications in 2015. She decided to immigrate to Canada with her husband in 2020.

They relocated as Permanent Residents in Toronto, a tough change for a well-settled Indian couple. “We landed in March 2020, just one week before the international borders were closed due to the current pandemic situation” -they remember- “Since then it has been quite a journey for us. While the beautiful sky and the snow amazed us, the increasing news about layoffs and job application rejections dreaded us. The pandemic hit us badly, as it did everyone in the world. However, the struggle was on.”

A few months after their arrival, Chaitali joined YMCA for employment counselling and her counsellor sent her an email about a Cybersecurity foundation course offered by CultureLink. “I attended the information session and I found it very helpful. Therefore, I registered for the 8-week virtual training program, where the first week was focused on Canadian Career Development and the remaining 7 weeks were dedicated to Cybersecurity technical training. Every Friday we got an opportunity to meet an industry expert who specialized in the Cybersecurity domain. I joined the course hoping to build my professional networks.  I also found the curriculum quite related to my work profile.” explains Chaitali.

She continues, “During training, we also attended networking sessions. Before such events, we learned how to present ourselves by having our resumes updated and confidently introducing ourselves. For this, we used to join an hour before the event. We practiced asking questions in different scenarios, including interacting with a prospective employer during the networking session. It was my first networking learning opportunity in Canada. I found it extremely valuable as I got a chance to speak with a hiring manager.”

Networking Works

Building a network takes time and effort, that is why we work hard to make it easier for new Canadians to meet people who can help their job search. Every connection counts, although for some individuals, like Chaitali, being in the right place in the right time happens sooner rather than later:

“A day or two later, I received a message from one of the HR officers who attended the networking session, about an open position for a Quality Analyst. I immediately sent my resume and a series of calls and interviews began. A handful of calls later, I was shortlisted for the role and offered the position. All this happened while I was still attending the course. After 8 months of rigorous job search, I was able to land a job in my field here in Canada, thanks to CultureLink. 

I started my job in November. My husband, who is a software developer joined the same course in February 2021 and secured a job during the first week. While his story is different than mine, I’d say CultureLink has been our lucky charm! This year, I hope we will be able to meet the CultureLink team in person to thank them for the wonderful job they’re doing for all the newcomers.

In addition, to all of you who are reading this, I highly recommend you to join this course and explore other services offered by CultureLink to help newcomers settle in Canada.”

Empowering Newcomers To Succeed

Empowering Newcomers to Succeed

Yan Gu Mentorship News, Mentorship Program, Networking Event, News

Diversity, Equity and Human Rights Training Gives Newcomers Tools to Succeed in Canada’s Diverse Workplace

By Ilaneet Goren


Ilaneet Goren

While the vision and promise of a better life have brought many of us to Canada, research shows that skilled immigrants continue to face barriers to employment due to bias and discrimination based on race, ethnicity, language, religion and other grounds. And yet, in their first months, and often years, in Canada, newcomers seldom receive opportunities to learn about their human rights and how to access support around discrimination and inequity in the workplace. Equally important is the conversation on how to insist that our chosen workplace culture values diversity, promotes belonging, and ensures equity, allowing us to bring our whole self to work.

So, when Community Connection Mentorship Program reached out about delivering just this type of training to internationally trained newcomer professionals, I knew I wanted to be part of it. As a CultureLink volunteer for many years, I was already a huge fan of the organization’s innovative ways of responding to newcomers’ needs.

I remember my own experience when I came to Canada 20 years ago – I was learning English and job search skills while also navigating a new identity as a queer woman. I wished I had a safe space to learn about my rights and gain tools to better respond to the expectations and realities of a diverse, multicultural context. With that, I also didn’t realize that despite my challenges I was still benefiting from what I now know is white privilege in our society. When I learned more about how systems of power and privilege operate, it helped me be a better ally in the fight for social justice.

Titled Diversity, Equity and Human Rights in the Workplace, this three-part training has been delivered to three cohorts of 10-12 newcomers as part of the ‘Interview Squad’ training program.

Participants had diverse professional and ethnocultural backgrounds, making the discussions that much richer and informative as group members shared their own experiences and perspectives around identity, culture and belonging in the workplace.

The training covered a range of concepts and topics, aiming to empower newcomers to have informed conversations about human rights, equity, diversity, and inclusion in their places of work and learning. The group also discussed systemic racism, unconscious bias, and what it means to be an ally. After completing some e-learning modules offered to the public by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, participants engaged in interactive exercises and explored real-life examples and scenarios. Each session included practice responding to interview questions relating to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, which are becoming increasingly common across sectors.

Most of the participants rated the sessions as “helpful.” One participant who started a new job at one of Toronto’s major hospitals shortly after the training said: “This training has positively impacted me to become an active part to support and understand people in my workplace, and society.” He also commented on his experience in the group: “It was a very good time to learn about a lot of things, new definitions, and concepts, history, a belonging feeling that has been developed in a brief time.”

A participant from another cohort said she appreciated the practice and the additional resources provided after the sessions: “Thanks to it I improved my soft skills. Plus, I enjoyed the interview practise, the feedback was very useful. I think this needs to be a prerequisite to all settlement in Toronto.”

Ilaneet Goren is a long-time CultureLink volunteer and an Equity, Diversity and Human Rights Educator and Consultant.


For more program details from CultureLink please click here.


Kids & COVID-19: Mental Health Night with SWIS

Sarah Ahsan SWIS News

“When stress overwhelms their ability to cope, the behavior of kids (and adults) can be challenging. The webinar explores ways to foster resilience in children and youth by understanding their stress responses, being curious about the needs underneath the stress, and supporting them to get their needs met in helpful ways.” – Karen B. Hawley

Kids & COVID-19: Mental Health Night with SWIS was a group virtual event held in partnership between TDSB Queen Victoria Public School and CultureLink Settlement and Community Services, on February 25th, 2021. This was a very important group event and a successful one for our newcomer parents from Queen Victoria Public School. Parents connected with kids and the community at large from other local schools who attended as well.

Mental Health in the Tibetan community as a whole is a complex subject that is not fully understood, in fact often misunderstood. Our presenter Karen Brozina Hawley, a clinical psychologist and a Queen Victoria mom broke down the topic for our parents helping them understand the emotional and mental stresses that kids and parents go through. Karen explored ways to unlearn and address these stresses in kids explaining how parents can help mitigate the issues and cope with the challenges.

Karen’s presentation was greatly received by all parents who appreciated her slow and deliberate emphasis on the subject. The parents in turn shared their stories and experiences and asked questions. It was undeniably a great learning and sharing experience for all.

This virtual group session was attended by two Vice Principals from Queen Victoria School who welcomed the parents. The incredible support from the school administration towards the virtual event was a great factor in the success of the event.

The virtual event was for two hours but the icing on the cake was when parents wanted to stay longer to talk more with the SWIS worker. That one extra hour helped forge connections, understand needs, issues and concerns for future planning. We ended on a promise to meet again!

Header Cybersecurity Training Program

Learning Never Exhausts the Mind

Aqeela Saddiqui Cybersecurity Training Program

“Either I will find the way, or I will make one”. Philip Sydney’s quote resonates in my story. My name is Hector, and I am a Mexican graduate in Information Technology. I started working as a System Administrator after my graduation in 2013. I wanted to be a successful professional, but good English communication skills were considered a must in the corporate world. Therefore, I came to Canada in 2014 as an International student. Later on, I decided to stay here to follow my dreams.

I remember my first days! I was really excited about being in a new country, in a different culture, living in a big metropolitan city like Toronto. I was meeting new people, making new friends at school who helped me a lot to improve my English skills. My biggest challenges were definitely language and finding a job in my area of expertise. Lack of “Canadian Experience” was a contributing factor in getting the job in my field.

I was referred to CultureLink by a friend who works in a community center and knew about the Cybersecurity program for newcomers with IT backgrounds. I immediately got in touch to inquire more about the program. They were very helpful and explained to me what the program is all about. I also attended the Information Session to know if this program was a good fit for me. I joined the Cybersecurity Training program in October 2020. During the training, the facilitator was very supportive during different stages of the program, including my job search, making me feel more confident when applying for jobs or attending interviews. After attending training, I got a job in the cybersecurity field.

I would highly recommend others to come to CultureLink- especially newcomers. They will not only get support for their settlement needs, but they will also get an opportunity to interact with other newcomers who are facing the same issues. Now I confidently call Canada my new home. I want to gain more experience and continue studying new technologies to stay up-to-date in terms of designation in cybersecurity.