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Overcoming Obstacles: One Ukrainian Refugee’s Employment Journey

Canada is largely regarded as one of the best and easiest countries to immigrate to. Canada is welcoming to immigrants and is ranked as one of the most livable places in the world. However, immigration in and of itself is no small feat. Many newcomers face immigration complications such as family and relationship issues, housing challenges, employment-related problems, and difficulties obtaining government services. At the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka, we strive to make this transition easier for newcomers by offering Immigration, Employment, and Learning Service supports.

This month we are highlighting one of the recent impact stories from our Employment Services Centre in Midland, written by Employment Specialist and Job Developer, Robert North:

In Employment Services, at our core we connect job seekers and local employers. Much of the time, it is routine and we go about our business quietly and good things happen. On occasion however, we have a great story to tell of obstacles overcome.

Irina, one of our job coaches here in Midland, had a client who recently came to Canada from Ukraine. We’ll call her Anna. Although Anna had a reasonable education, she had only the most rudimentary English and obviously, no Canadian work experience, which presented significant challenges. We had an existing relationship with a local retail store and through discussions with the owner, identified that they had an upcoming project where they could use a hand with resetting large portions of stock in their store. We identified that Anna may be able to help out, but would not be able to assist customers due to the language barrier. Irina went to the interview with the client to act as an interpreter and Anna was successful in being offered a position. The store owner agreed to allow her to work out of uniform in order to avoid any difficult customer interactions. The thought was, however, that Anna would still be exposed to English for long periods through the day and would be able to improve on her skills.

Within about six weeks, Anna had picked up enough English, and had grown enough in confidence, that she approached the store owner and asked for a uniform shirt so that she could be identified as part of the team and be able to assist customers. All indications are that Anna will continue with the employer. She is taking English classes, helping other new arrivals from Ukraine, and starting to write the next chapter of her life here in Canada.

Each year, YMCA Employment Services assists thousands of individuals to connect to meaningful employment opportunities. Our Employment Services centres located in Midland, Huntsville, and Parry Sound help individuals improve their job hiring skills and identify the jobs best suited to their skills and experience. Your job is out there, let us help you find it.

At the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka, we are committed to ensuring everyone in our community has access to services and supports that help them reach their full potential. If you, or someone you know, would benefit from Immigration or Employment services, please visit us at

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