Programs bring voice and career to newcomers

[attach]6170[/attach]Two new programs for newcomers have made North York Community House their home: Delightfully Yours catering and Digital Storytelling.

Both social enterprises — businesses run by not-for-profit organizations to fund their mission — help newcomers settle and integrate in the broader community.

Delightfully Yours teaches newcomer women the skills they need to succeed in the culinary industry. The program also prepares students for paid employment or building businesses of their own.

Participant Arzu Buyukakintak, who came to Canada two years ago from Turkey with her two kids, discovered her calling in the multicultural kitchen of Delightfully Yours.

“I’ve liked cooking ever since I was a kid,” Buyukakintak said. “I’m happy that here I get to do that and also create meals from different cultures.”

According to executive director Shelley Zuckerman, the program has been a huge success.

“It’s only in its first year but we already had more applications than we can accommodate,” executive director Shelley Zuckerman said. “The women have been learning to cook food like Colombian empanadas, Indian vegetable paneer and Greek spanakopitas.”

The program is divided between in-house training and a practicum which allows the students to gain work experience in kitchens around the city.

Already in the latter part of the program, Buyukakintak is entertaining thoughts of becoming a chef.

“I can’t imagine myself in a [fast food] restaurant and making regular meals because I want to be more creative and create new ideas for food,” she said.

While Delightfully Yours helps newcomers find a career, North York Community House’s Digital Storytelling program helps them find their voice.

Settlement worker Jennilee Austria works helps students explore their histories through creating videos of two to five minutes.

Each year, Austria brings the program to Kipling Collegiate’s introductory English as a Second Language class.

“Every time I watch students’ digital stories, I feel like it helps me understand where they’re coming from,” Austria said.

She recalled a time when teachers she knew struggled to see eye to eye with some of their Roma students who were missing school and acting out in class.

“But when [the teachers] watched the videos of some kids seeing their friends beaten in front of them or a girl getting molested, I think their eyes were open,” said Austria, who added that playing a role in the students’ healing process is the most gratifying part of her job.

Zuckerman has witnessed digital stories aid both students and adults in coming to terms with their pasts.

“Oftentimes, this is the first time they’re telling these stories outside of their close circle,” Zuckerman said. “But you really see them reaching out and becoming braver in those two to three minutes.”