Kitchener-Waterloo

Local tech company Bonfire hiring skilled refugees living abroad

Kitchener based company Bonfire is among a handful of Canadian companies looking at recruiting skilled refugees currently living abroad with the help of non-profit Talent Beyond Boarders.

'I feel like my dreams and aspirations are now alive again,' said new hire Mohammed Hakmi

Mohammed Hakmi is currently living in Beirut, Lebannon. He told CBC K-W he is very excited to come to Kitchener-Waterloo and hopes to be here by Christmas 2018. (Submitted photo)

Kitchener based tech company Bonfire is eagerly awaiting the arrival of one of their newest members, Mohammed Hakmi, a Syrian refugee currently living in Beirut, Lebanon.

Bonfire is among a handful of Canadian companies in the process of hiring skilled refugees currently living abroad with the help of non-profit Talent Beyond Boundaries (TBB).

Kris Braun is the director of engineering at Bonfire. He had the opportunity to interview and hire Mohammed Hakmi, a Syrian refugee currently living in Lebanon. (Submitted photo)

TBB has been matching refugees with companies that are in need their of skills in the United States, and has recently branched out to Canada and Australia. 

It was through TBB that Kris Braun, director of engineering at Bonfire, was able to interview Hakmi and offer him a job in the company's engineering department.

One reason for hiring internationally was to curb the talent shortage, Braun told CBC News, but the main reason is helping refugees.

"We were hiring anyway and we want to support refugees and support Canada's efforts to welcome refugees," Braun said.

Settling in Kitchener-Waterloo

Originally from Syria, Hakmi has been living in Lebanon for the past six years and was offered the job at Bonfire at the end of April.

He said he's not quite sure how to express his feelings, but he is excited and eager to come to Canada and start working.  

"When I got the offer, I feel like my dreams and aspirations are now alive again," Hakmi told CBC News from Beirut.

Braun said a candidate would normally start working with the company shortly after being hired, but in Hakmi's case there's still work to be done before he can settle in Waterloo region.

Hakmi was recently accepted into the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program, which nominates for permanent residency individuals whose skills would contribute to Canada's economy. Braun hopes that will speed the process.

"The whole team has rallied around Mohammed's immigration case and we get to celebrate every little win," Braun said.

Hakmi said he is optimistic and hopes to be in K-W for the holidays. 

Braun said they have plans to continue working with TBB in the future to potentially hire more refugees. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carmen Groleau

Associate Producer

Carmen Groleau is an associate producer and web writer for CBC K-W.

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