Thank you, Volunteers

May 09, 2022

This week is the National Volunteer Week in Canada. We are very excited and honored to be celebrating our volunteers and their successes. Volunteers are the heart of our community and at the Centre for Skills they are certainly front and centre for many who need their support. From assisting newcomers in their efforts to learn English, to settling in and preparing for work in Canada, to hosting computer training workshops for all who want to improve their skills, our volunteers give generously of their time and expertise to make the future better and the journey a little easier for someone they have never met before.

Meet Charles Minken

Chales Minken photoG. Charles Minken has been volunteering and supporting the Newcomer Conversation Circle program since 2018. This program, at the Centre for Skills, is designed to support newcomers in practicing language skills – speaking and listening - to learn about Canadian culture and our community, and to make new friends.

Charlie facilitated this program in-person before the pandemic, and now virtually on Zoom. He has contributed significantly to the program- with his time and talent, skills and knowledge.

During all of his interactions, Charlie has helped NCC participants to improve conversation skills and build up confidence when they speak in front of other participants. It's because of his dedication and hard work that the program has been successful.

Throughout the time that Charlie has volunteered, he has shown exceptional commitment and professionalism. He is kind, patient, very organized and reliable. Charlie is a ‘people person’ - passionate and kind-hearted. He has positively impacted the lives of many newcomers who have settled in the Halton community. We are ever so grateful for his outstanding contribution!

I recently spoke to Charlie about his experience as a volunteer. His career as an international business manager afforded him an opportunity to travel around the world and manage businesses that operate internationally. Later, he became a college professor in International Business Management. As a college professor who often worked with international students, he quickly learned of and empathized with the newcomer's struggle to fit it, tackle cultural differences and develop communications skills. He said:

“Communication is difficult in one's own mother tongue and even more so in a new language. Many newcomers have professional skills, education, talents and work experience, but are held back in the Canadian workplace because of the lack of English language skills or awareness of cultural differences.”

At first, Charles was helping his international students get over these barriers. When he retired, he decided to continue to provide help to newcomers. He joined the Centre for Skills as a volunteer to help newcomers build networking connections, to aid them during the adjustment period, and to develop their English language and communication skills. This he knew would help them increase their confidence to do well, as he recognized they had both the skills and knowledge to do so. He assisted in the Employment Services workshops as a guest speaker as well.

I asked him how long he plans to do this and he said:

“Helping newcomers get over the barriers has been an extremely rewarding and enjoyable experience, and it is also very helpful to stay engaged in retirement and still feel like a contributing member of the community.”

Professor Minken, we are honored and grateful for all the support you have given and continue to give our clients. Thank you, from all of us at the Centre for Skills!