At this time of the year, we spotlight our volunteers and partners whose support has been invaluable in a year marked by uncertainty. They are the backbone of our organisation, keeping us going during these challenging times. We gathered together on May 19, 2021, to honour the contributions of our Volunteers & Partners of the Year.
Volunteer of the Year (Peterborough) – Casandra Lee
Casandra Lee is a newcomer to Canada, Montessori educator, and a multimedia artist based in Peterborough. In Spring 2020, she volunteered to help bring expression and creativity to newcomer children & youth by facilitating weekly virtual art groups. During the pandemic, these groups have been a welcoming space for children and youth to come together and express themselves. She has also led training sessions for NCC Volunteers on engaging newcomers online. In Fall 2020, we collaborated with Casandra on an exciting new project to develop a Children’s Book filled with the stories of newcomer children. She worked with six children, guiding them through creative and expressive activities to reflect on and document their stories. After writing and illustrating the book, she is currently editing the book, where she is meticulous and committed to honouring the stories told. The book will be completed this summer and published by the NCC. Casandra’s work enriches the lives of our youngest clients while helping NCC innovate and truly make a difference.
Volunteer of the Year (Northumberland) – Marta Sofia Reyes
Marta Sofia Reyes came to Canada several years ago and has been connected to the New Canadians Centre in Northumberland in a number of volunteer roles since 2017. She knows what it feels like navigating a new country and has been committed to welcoming newcomers and supporting their integration. This year, she was paired with a newcomer where she tutors them in conversational English weekly via Zoom. In addition to working on their English, she has helped them study and prepare for the Canadian Citizenship test, upgrade their education and navigate life in Canada. Marta is also a much-loved performer at several of our events including our Canada Day Festival and Welcome Potlucks where she shares her culture and love of dance with the community. We are so lucky to have Marta, whose warmth and enthusiasm brings people together.
Youth Volunteer of the Year – New Canadians Centre Young Leaders Council (NCCYL)
New Canadians Centre Young Leaders Council (NCCYL) is comprised of
six teens with newcomer experience: Aya Darrouba, Preshtha Garg, Ian Nazario, Lujaina Kamar, Sami El Moussa, and Saoirse Aherne. The council was formed virtually amidst the pandemic in Fall 2020 and has met weekly to discuss the issues faced by newcomers and devise ways to help. They participated in leadership training and volunteered as peer-tutors during weekly Homework Help sessions for newcomer youth. Recognising that youth were intimidated by attending virtual events, the NCC YL members banded together to create a guidebook for newcomer youth. The guidebook is filled with personal stories of settlement, advice, resources, and reassurances on settling in Canada. The guidebook will be distributed to newcomer youth in schools and at the NCC. They have shown themselves as committed leaders with a true passion for using their experiences to help others.
Beckie Rogers Community Partner of the Year (Peterborough) – Happy Wanderers Tax Volunteers
Happy Wanderers is a local group of volunteers who help file tax returns for low-income households. They have supported newcomers since 2018. Each year, they host several full-day clinics to help newcomers file their income tax and learn about the tax system and benefits. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, they have adapted to ensure that they can still support our clients. This support has been essential and valuable for those who are new to the process. This year, they have supported 100+ newcomers over four clinics and continue to accept more clients and on an ad hoc basis. Several cases have been complicated and they have faced them head-on, doing their best to help our clients receive the most that they can from their returns. We thank the volunteers of the Happy Wanderers Group for their generosity, kindness and continued partnership.
Dindin Villarino Community Partner of the Year (Northumberland) – Durham College Community Employment Services (DCCES)
Durham College Community Employment Services (DCCES) provides job seekers in the Durham and Northumberland regions with employment support, job development, and training programs. They partner with several community organisations, working collaboratively towards innovative programs and services. Over the last several years, they have supported many newcomers in their job search, helping to familiarise them with the local labour market, prepare for the workforce, and connect with employers. Some newcomers have also benefited from their training programs. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they have been an invaluable support. Newcomers have described DCCES as respectful, enthusiastic, and welcoming. With their help, many newcomers are now integrated into our community and employed.