Centre helps newcomers settle and integrate

After working 14 years as an accountant in India, Prajesh Bhavsar now works at a gas station in Toronto.

Prajesh Bhavsar worked as an accountant in India for 14 years before coming to Canada, where he now works at a gas station. He is using Newcomers Centre services to help him get back into accounting. (prajesh-bhavsar)

It’s not his preferred job but Bhavsar, who’s lived in Canada for half a year, remains optimistic about his future.

“You want something — you’re going to lose something,” he said.

Bhavsar is using services offered by the Newcomers Centre at the Agincourt Community Services Association to improve his English, write a resumé and put together a portfolio.

The centre, serving Dorset Park, opened its doors in March after receiving a $686,481 grant from the federal government. After holding an open house in September, it has seen an increase in users and now serves up to 200 people a month, said program manager Jamillah Mananghaya-Poernama.

The centre is now working to expand its itinerant services, especially because attendance drops in winter, Mananghaya-Poernama said.

“We want to make these services accessible to them by going to their location,” she said.

Jhaj Baldev Singh, 63, started using the services two months ago after he spotted its sign while walking down the street. He is learning how to write a resumé and improving his English skills, something he said he considers very important.

“If you were to live here, it is a necessity to learn English,” he said.

Aside from immigration, employment and English services, the centre also holds workshops on skills training and stress management, among others, to help newcomers settle and integrate, Mananghaya-Poernama said.

Located at 1911 Kennedy Rd., the centre is in Ward 40 which has a first-generation immigrant population of 37,470, according to 2006 statistics. That’s almost 70 per cent of the total ward population, more than the 60 per cent of first-generation immigrants in Toronto’s population.

The Agincourt Community Services Association will also receive $300,000 from the federal government over four years for it’s Civic Awareness Project.