Help change lives like Olga’s in Winnipeg now.
Olga always dreamt of creating a life full of hope and opportunity for her family.
Along with her husband and two children, she left Israel’s tense political climate in 2017 and came to start a new life in Canada. After living there for 17 years, they were grateful for a fresh start.
“We left because we wanted to live in peace,” she said. “We wanted to raise our children in a country where there is a future for them.”
But moving to a new country came with its own set of challenges.
“I felt really insecure about my English,” said Olga. “I had to overcome a lot of language barriers.”
“We barely had enough money for food.”
Olga was able to find a job in Winnipeg. And then the pandemic hit, bringing additional struggles for her family. Olga’s children were sent home from school, forcing her to leave her job to be with them.
Sadly, far too many newcomers have been in the same boat as Olga during the pandemic. Over one-third of recent immigrants employed in February 2020 lost their job (or the majority of their hours) by the end of April 2020—a higher rate than Canadian-born workers.
“This was a difficult time for us,” she said. “We barely had enough money for food.”
When her children were able to go back to school in September 2021, Olga knew she needed to find a way to financially support her family again. Yet job searching as a newcomer was a daunting process.
Additionally, the reflectiveness that came with pandemic offered her a new perspective. Perhaps she could do something that felt a little radical: finding work she felt passionate about.
“As the world changes, we learn a lot about ourselves and our true purposes in life,” said Olga.
Then a friend told her about a program that changed everything: the Culinary Edge Employment Training Program offered through the Canadian Muslim Women’s Institute (CMWI), a United Way Winnipeg donor-supported agency partner.*
“It felt like my wishes came true.”
The program equips newcomer women with the skills required to enter a commercial cooking workplace for the first time. Common cooking methods, commercial preparation, and food safety are all taught, but it was Olga’s personal love for cooking that made the program a no-brainer.
“I was very excited to learn about this program. It felt like my wishes came true,” Olga said. “I love cooking and I love when people enjoy my food. I love to give joy to people.”
She began the full-time program shortly after her kids returned to school, attending a combination of online and in-person classes. Three other women from different countries and backgrounds joined her in the program, all with a shared love for cooking.
The training not only helped to drastically improve Olga’s English. It also set her up for success when the time came to apply for jobs.
“We were taught how to write a resume correctly, how to look and apply for a job, and how to prepare for an interview,” she said. “All of these skills helped me a lot.”
After graduating, Olga submitted her resume for a kitchen assistant job at a retirement home. She was pleased to be offered a permanent position.
“I was very happy. It’s a great workplace and they have a very modern kitchen,” said Olga. “Everyone works hard and helps each other.”
“My life has changed for the better.”
Olga attributes a large part of the positive changes in her life to her Culinary Instructor at CMWI, Trish Sinanan.
“She saw my potential and made me believe in myself,” she said. “I am very grateful to her for that.”
Putting newcomer women like Olga on the path for success is the heart of CMWI’s mission. With the help of generous United Way Winnipeg donors, participants foster emotional wellbeing, self-sufficiency, and financial independence so they can thrive in their new lives in Canada.
“We help women grow in confidence, knowing they can achieve their goals through hard work,” said Trish Sinanan. “They develop support systems and a sense of community. They emerge having skills that can support them and their families, which is extremely empowering for them.”
Amazingly, Olga now works three different jobs in the food industry.
“My life has changed for the better,” Olga said. “I can dream and believe that my dreams can come true. And I know there are kind, friendly people who are around to help and support me.”
*Founded in 2006, CMWI empowers women, families, and communities and seeks to build a stronger and more harmoniously diverse society.