Work Placement at Immigrant Centre: a true community

Work Placement at Immigrant Centre: a true community

Despite going to school only a block away, I knew very little about Immigrant Centre Manitoba when I started my practicum in December.

I didn’t know about all the people IC Manitoba helps on a regular basis (they provided over 18,000 services to clients last year). I had no idea the organization operates on three floors of the 100 Adelaide Street building (intake and referrals, the Access English Centre, and the administrative offices) . I was prepared for professionalism and hard-working staff; but I truly didn’t expect to be welcomed in to this amazing, positive community so quickly.

And yet here I was, a brand-new creative communications student holding a never-been-used leather notebook and searching frantically for a pen as Vicki Sinclair toured me around the building on my first day. Every person I met had a huge smile and a warm introduction for me, even though they were extraordinarily busy. (Later, Lori stopped what she was doing to unlock my office door for me every day, and she had a joke to go along with it every time.)

Since then, I’ve learned more than I ever thought was possible in three bolt-of-lightning weeks.

I learned that an organization is exactly as strong as its culture, and Immigrant Centre Manitoba is a master of culture-building. The operations function like a living organism. Co-workers pop by each other’s offices to discuss things; everyone is smiling all the time. It’s a first-name-basis kind of place and teamwork is the only way things get done here.

I found out what innovation means. It’s not just about coming up with something no one has done before, although that could be part of it. Innovation at Immigrant Centre Manitoba means making available resources into solutions. Everything is used so effectively here, I wouldn’t be surprised if the desk I’m sitting at right now could flip around and become a fridge and stove – did you know they have a nutrition program for newcomers?

Through a very exciting Facebook campaign we grew our fans by 31% in 18 days. Of course, that only happened because the staff here were keen to have some fun and so kind to help out with the photos. Our followers reacted with gusto to all the positive messages coming their way, so they deserve credit as well.

We also tweaked the website and updated some content to keep the information as relevant as possible for our clients, partners, funders, and advocates. I interviewed some staff, volunteers, and clients to gather perspectives on the amazing work that goes on here every day. I learned that every single person has a story worth hearing. Every one.

Most importantly, I learned about empathy. Immigrant Centre Manitoba’s clients are newcomers and immigrants who are looking to get settled in Manitoba. They want to succeed; that’s why they’re here. Over two-thirds of the staff here were once newcomers, so they understand how the clients feel. That’s one of those valuable-beyond-numbers types of things about which I cannot speak highly enough.

A huge thank you to Vicki Sinclair, Director of Programming & Development, for always having the time to answer my questions and for making this practicum such a great experience. Even though she should have been visible only as a blur around the office (I can’t even keep track of all she does), she always had time to ask me how things were going and if I needed help. This is worth more than I can even say.

Hearing the staff interact with the clients, and the clients interact with the volunteers, all I can do is marvel at the sheer amount of passion housed at 100 Adelaide Street. It is a community in the most authentic version of the word, and I am so grateful I got to be a part of it.

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