Healthy CommunitiesYMCA Newcomer ProgramsYMCA Volunteers

Award-Winning Immigrant Mentors Newcomers Through Next Stop Canada Program

11 April 2019 - by Sarah Cowan
Long-time YMCA volunteer Sukhjit Singh was born and raised in India and immigrated to Canada with his wife and daughter in 2009. Before coming to Canada, Sukhjit spent close to nine years in Oman teaching computer science and management.

He was touched by how kind Canadians were towards him when he first moved here.

“When I landed at the airport, I could clearly tell how welcoming Canadians are,” he says.

Sukhjit describes how he was greeted by cheerful, smiling faces through the whole airport. So the cultural shock didn’t start right away; it began with his job search.

“Then the real reality kicks in. Your resume, cover letter, and whatever you knew before is not going to work right away. You need to either tweak it or you need to completely unlearn and learn it again,” he explains.

After three weeks of frustration while job hunting, Sukhjit says things finally started to fall into place after he enrolled in an employment program.

“This was the turning point of my life,” he says.

The employment program helped Sukhjit discover volunteering — which he says was the best decision he made since moving to Canada.

His first volunteer position was at the YMCA’s employment centre in Mississauga as a Workshop Facilitator and Resource Centre Assistant.

“When you come to this country, you are learning something,” explains Sukhjit. “You are learning Canadian ways, but if you don’t get opportunities to actually practice what you are learning in the process of your job search, the chances of you being successful are very [low].”

Sukhjit went from having zero contacts in Canada to building a reserve of references to help him with his job search, all by volunteering at the YMCA.

“It gave me my confidence back and that ‘You know what, I can make it,’” he says.

After just six months, Sukhjit landed his first job in Canada as a settlement worker at Peel Multicultural Council. But that didn’t mean he was done with volunteering. Sukhjit continued volunteering for more than 20 organizations and causes, and was even named one of the RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrants in 2013. And in March this year, he was awarded the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers by Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie at a City Council meeting in March.

“I tasted coming out from my comfort zone and said ‘I need to explore more,’” he explains.

Today, Sukhjit helps people who are in the same situation he was in a decade ago. He currently volunteers as a mentor for the YMCA’s Next Stop Canada program, a free pre-arrival service for those immigrating to Canada.

“Being a newcomer, it’s very natural that you want to help fellow immigrants,” he says. “Being an immigrant, I know the challenges.”

As someone who also once used pre-arrival services to help with his transition to Canadian culture, Sukhjit says it’s very rewarding for him to be able to share his experiences and advice with future immigrants.

Feeling inspired by Sukhjit’s story? Explore volunteer opportunities at the YMCA of Greater Toronto.

Immigrating to Canada? Connect with newcomers who have successfully settled here on Next Stop Canada's website


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