In 2011, when Alexandra Rodriguez, a young mother of two, came from Colombia to join her father in Canada, she spoke a little English but had difficulties figuring out where to start and what to do.
“I was worried about my future,” she says, “and also my husband was still in Colombia, so I felt incomplete.”
She found the Mennonite New Life Centre where she was assisted with her settlement and immigration processes. A few months later, she became a volunteer with a youth group at the Centre. Here, she had the opportunity to talk to youth settlement workers, make friends, share ideas and get support. “I could practice my social skills again and I became more engaged in the community,” she says. Volunteering in the youth group helped her feel more confident and gave her the ability to make decisions about her future.
Alexandra decided to go to college and become a community support worker.
When she finished her courses, she asked the Mennonite New Life Centre if she could do her work placement there. The answer was positive. When the placement ended, Alexandra was employed by the Centre, through funding by the City of Toronto’s Investing in Neighbourhoods program, as a Settlement and Youth Outreach Worker.
Her experience as a client of the Centre helps Alexandra a lot in her job.
Being a native Spanish speaker also helps Alexandra understand her many clients better. “There are a lot of Spanish-speaking clients at the Centre,” she explains, “and they prefer to talk to people who speak Spanish and share the same culture – it makes them feel more comfortable and safer.”
“This is an amazing experience for me,” she says. “I understand how it feels to be alone, not to know what to do, not to be able to find your way – so having been “on the other side” makes me more compassionate and sympathetic to those who are facing these challenges now.”
Alexandra is passionate about her work at the Mennonite New Life Centre and about assisting people in their most challenging times in Canada. “A lady came to us recently,” Alexandra gives as an example, “she had moved from Montreal to Toronto with her little boy and she didn’t know anybody here. She didn’t even have a place to stay. I helped find a shelter for her and for her son and I connected them with other organizations that were able to assist them in other ways – like providing legal services. So there are more people now who can help them. Also, thanks to our efforts, the mother and child were able to participate in summer camps, to travel outside Toronto. And they feel much better now and not so worried.”
“I love the people who work at the Mennonite New Life Centre,” Alexandra says. “I love the way they treat their clients and the way they contribute to our society. They really care about others and even when there are obstacles, they do their best to continue providing the same services – just to help.”
By Lucy Slavianska ~ New Horizons Media