A new HOPE House program is aimed at transitioning volunteers into full-time employment.
Gillian Cornell, programs director at HOPE House, said since launching the Ease Into Work program last July, several participants have been able to secure full-time employment. Their goal is to help 10 participants by July 2022.
“Naturally, they would connect with other people who would own businesses, and would eventually go back to work,” Cornell said about some past volunteers who have worked at HOPE House.
Nicole Barrette, program coordinator of Ease Into Work, said participants can volunteer in different areas to build up soft skills employers are looking for. The program also identifies physical barriers to employment and helps participants overcome or work on those challenges to achieve better outcomes.
Once they are ready to join the workforce, HOPE House connects participants with in-house services to find employment. While participants can work at their own pace within the program, Barrette said they must be working toward a goal.
"We get a little more tough on them," said Barrette about the participants, mentioning they do check-ins with volunteers to provide feedback to promote growth.
A majority of participants who have used the program are women, including HOPE House 2021 volunteer of the year, Parm Devgun.
"She became a huge part of our team," Barrette said about Devgun, "She was here before we officially launched the Ease Into Work Program."
Barrette first met Devgun in March 2021. At the time, she said Devgun came to HOPE House to start working and improve her English speaking skills. Once joining HOPE House, Devgun volunteered weekly and was never late for a shift. Barrette said she was known for her initiative,
"She had these skills, but she didn't have the confidence in exercising them," said Barrette. "In a supported environment, she blossomed."
Devgun is one of the first participants to complete the program. During the program, she spent three months supporting a city-wide initiative called the Backpack Project, which saw 1,600 backpacks go to students in need. By the time she was ready to look for full-time employment in August, Barrette said they were running out of things for her to do.
"Some people like Parm are amazing where they moved through the program very quickly," said Barrette.
Devgun explains she was working on obtaining her high school diploma and started volunteering at HOPE House to complete her volunteer hours.
"Everybody is so nice and helpful," Devgun said about her experiences at HOPE House, "They do everything for the people."
Now, Devgun works as a cashier at Home Depot and is working through English and math courses at Conestoga College. Originally planning to pursue accounting in the future, Devgun said she is thinking about taking a property selling course, all because of her experiences with the Ease Into Work program.
"Now because I'm more confident, with Home Depot and everything here (at HOPE House) as well, I'm thinking about real estate," said Devgun. "Nothing is impossible after working here."
"Everyone here is so helpful, if I can do it, anyone can."