Success Stories

It takes a community to help 124 government-assisted refugees in making Kingston home.

KEYS Job Centre wants to publicly recognize and sincerely thank volunteer team leaders Emma Jackson and Amy Cordsen, as well as all the many volunteers and generous donors who have supported the newcomer families through the Donations Depot and the Sweet Dreams Project.

Emma and Amy are volunteers for the Refugee Resettlement Services Kingston (RRSK) project, a joint initiative of KEYS Job Centre and Kingston Community Health Centres.

To date, RRSK has supported 124 government-assisted refugees - from Syria, from Burundi and from Iraq - with making Kingston home. RRSK services include provision of temporary accommodation, orientation to life in Canada, linkages to government programs, assistance with finding permanent accommodation, life skills support and connections to the community.

Here is a look at our Donations Dream Team!

Volunteers, Emma Jackson and Amy Cordsen had a great idea that quickly grew into an amazing reality! Emma and Amy - the Donations 'Dream Team' volunteer leaders began working and planning together in October 2016, having met at a KEYS volunteer orientation session.

With generous support from Keystone Property Management, by December 1st - the Donations Depot opened its doors and began providing a very important service to refugee families settling in Kingston. Government-assisted refugees (GARs) are provided with a basic level of financial and material support from the Canadian government. But this only scratches the surface of what families need to set up their new lives and home here in Kingston. So these two amazing women put their heads together and came up with a solution.

Emma and Amy had the vision to create a donations centre that would provide a fun, free and respectful shopping experience for the newcomer families. Families would be able to 'shop' for items - generously donated by Kingston residents - such as kitchen supplies, pots, pans, dishes, small appliances and other household items, as well as for winter clothing. And recognizing that some items are best to have new - such as bedding - sheets, duvets and pillows - an amazing fundraising effort was undertaken (called 'Sweet Dreams Project' - find them on Facebook) which has to date raised over $3000.

Emma Jackson has been the driving force behind the store location. She has extraordinary organizational skills, an amazing ability to multi-task and manages to do it all with a big smile on her face! Emma coordinates a team of more than 20 volunteers to staff the store and also to deliver the items to the family's home. To date, 27 newcomer families have been accessing the Donations Depot to set up their homes.

All the volunteers deserve recognition for their contribution to the success of this initiative - we'd like to mention Kade Medd, Penny Paterson, Jerry Doyle, Nathalie Banger, Ian Hunt in particular for their regular involvement and commitment. Amy Cordsen has been the main brain behind the fundraising initiative and Sweet Dreams project.

She is an amazing networker, with a very clever and compassionate set of marketing skills, and she does it all as a new mother with her youngest usually strapped on her front while she works! Amy has reached out through her many contacts and connections to both individuals and local businesses. She has used social media as well as good old fashioned street sales.

Anyone wishing to join these amazing volunteers, or wanting to donate items can contact KEYS Job Centre at 613-546-5559 or email us at

The Donations Depot and The Sweet Dreams project can use your help. Household items are being gratefully accepted. Click here for more details.

Volunteer team leaders, Emma Jackson (left) and Amy Cordsen

Back from left to right: Nathalie Bangar, Ian Hunt, Emma Jackson, Jerry Doyle

Youth Mentoring Program is changing lives in our community

New youth mentoring program provides opportunities for young people to explore potential careers and develop meaningful relationships.

The InSight Youth Mentoring Program at KEYS Job Centre connects local professionals with youth facing barriers so that they can learn about career fields of interest.

Kiana signed up for the program in her final year of high-school, hoping to learn about the field of Nursing. 'I didn't know what to expect. But my mentor, who was very knowledgeable about the Nursing field, made me feel comfortable enough to ask difficult questions.'

Kiana was matched with Suzanne, who works as a Registered Nurse at Kingston General Hospital and KFL&A Public Health. Kiana and Suzanne met consistently for over 5 months to focus on Kiana's successful transition from high-school to college.

InSight mentors offer support and coaching to help their mentee reach their goals which are established by the young person at the beginning of the mentoring match. This can include enhancing their study skills or learning about different post-secondary options.

Kiana and Suzanne attended an Open House at Queen's where Kiana was able to learn about the Nursing program, explore the university, and see herself at Queen's.

The primary focus of the InSight Youth Mentoring Program is to support youth in making successful life transitions and to engage in meaningful career exploration.

'Kiana told me that she never even considered a university education,' said her Mentor, Suzanne. 'But throughout our mentoring partnership she has gained insight and confidence in making her education a possibility.'

As Kiana settled into school, Suzanne invited Kiana to job shadow her to observe hands-on aspects of Nursing and what it's like in a professional work environment after school.

Although Kiana and Suzanne have formally concluded their mentoring partnership, Kiana now has a meaningful connection with an established professional in the field of Nursing.

'KEYS wants the best for you and that's what I received,' said Kiana after completing the program.

Kiana, a local student with her mentor Suzanne, a Registered Nurse at Kingston General Hospital and KFL&A Public Health

We need leaders in our community to volunteer to be mentors.

Through KEYS Professional Mentoring Partnership, job-seeking immigrant and refugee professionals are matched with local professionals in the same field for the purpose of sharing information on Canadian workplace culture, coaching on skills required by the occupation and employer expectations in the Canadian and local context. Every year we have the opportunity to work with incredible volunteer community professionals who help guide our mentees to self-market and expand their professional networks.

Tarek Elmaghraby is a trained and practicing physician who received his Masters of Education in Nuclear Medicine Master from the University of Cairo and a PhD in Nuclear Medicine from the Netherlands. He has been working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia before he relocated to Canada permanently as of July 2015. When Tarek arrived in Kingston he found KEYS, he was looking for a professional network to introduce him to employment possibilities in healthcare/teaching related where he can utilize his skills and training.

Through the KEYS Professional Mentoring Partnership, Tarek was connected with Dr. Wijeratne, Rasika in the department of Medicine at Kingston General Hospital. Over a three month period Tarek was able to observe Dr. Wijeratne in the workplace as well receive support and information to work towards his employment goals.

Tarek shared with us some thoughts on his experience: 'I was privileged to recently finish an observership in the internal medicine department at Kingston General Hospital. I was fortunate working with Dr. Wijeratne closely to see how the health care in Canada is so patient-centered and to see her personal attachment and empathy with each patient and his/her family members. This experience was unique to me and it added a lot to my perception of the health care delivery in Canada.' 'I sincerely appreciate the work done by the Mentoring Partnership Coordinators at KEYS Job Centre for their initiatives and the unlimited efforts to start and support the whole project.

Dr. Wijeratne said 'Having been an International Medical Graduate myself, I have lived through the challenges International Medical Graduates face when they migrate to Canada. Medical knowledge they bring isn't different from what we have here, it is the way of patient centered practice of medicine that they have to learn. This is why after establishing my practice I started lending a hand to other IMGs giving them an opportunity to observe me within my practice. It has been a rewarding experience. I want to thank KGH, Department of Medicine at Queen's and KEYS Job Centre for making this a reality. '

The dedication of volunteers in the Kingston community has been paramount in the impact and success of our Professional Mentoring Program. To learn more about this program or to apply to be a mentor or mentee please visit this page.

Volunteer Mentor, Dr. Wijeratne, Rasika (right) with Tarek Elmaghraby
Interested in volunteering?
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