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EthniCity Catering is a social enterprise of the Centre for Newcomers.
The idea of the enterprise developed in 1997 when immigrant women participating in the Centre for Newcomers' peer support groups began receiving requests to cook and sell their traditional dishes. In 1998, The Calgary Foundation provided seed funding to develop a commercial kitchen. Since then the enterprise, originally known as Collective Kitchens Catering, has grown steadily.
Today, EthniCity Catering regularly provides Calgarians with high-quality, multi-ethnic food. At the same time, it employs immigrant women in transition and breaks the cycle of "no Canadian work experience, no Canadian work". EthniCity Catering receives funding from the United Way of Calgary and Area to support its training and transitional employment program, and from Citizenship and Immigration Canada to train employees in Workplace Essential Skills.
The women employed by EthniCity Catering are new to Canada. They face a number of challenges finding work, including limited English skills, lack of Canadian work experience, an unfamiliar culture, isolation and culture shock.
EthniCity employees work part time while they learn about the Canadian work environment, build their skills and search for permanent employment.
While shopping, chopping and cooking, the employees practice communication and teamwork skills appropriate to the Canadian workplace. They learn what Canadian employers expect. Employees also participate in training related to work in a commercial kitchen, and finding and keeping employment in Canada.
Women are usually employed by EthniCity Catering for an average of 3 months before they find other work or decide on further education. During that time, the program provides a safe place to share experiences of coming to a new country. Participants build their confidence and ability to succeed as citizens of Canada. They learn about and access resources that help their families settle and integrate.
Some of EthniCity Catering's employees have never before worked outside of their homes. The sense of accomplishment they feel upon receiving their first paycheque is inspiring, and their excitement after a successful job interview is contagious. These experiences are at the very heart of EthniCity Catering.