Former refugee's website helps newcomers in Winnipeg find work
Omar Rahimi knows how difficult it can be to find work and get a foothold in a new community
A former refugee who has carved out a life and created a business in Winnipeg is trying to ease the transition for other newcomers by setting them on the job path.
"I feel for the refugees. I know how they feel, I know what they've been through. I can feel their families. They are so happy to be here and they're safe," said Omar Rahimi.
"My family came here in 2001. Before we came to Canada, we lived in the Al Tash refugee camp in the desert of western Iraq. I now have meaningful employment, and I want to help others find the same."
Rahimi said he also knows how hard it can be to find work and get a foothold in the new community. In addition to language barriers, it can be difficult for newcomers to create a resume and know how to approach companies for a job.
To that end, Rahimi is launching a website where people can connect with refugees looking for employment.
"Most of the work would fall under the handyman category," he said. "We do things like commercial and residential painting, moving, hauling garbage or other waste products, small building projects and repairs. There are a lot more things we can do for you. You just need to ask."
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Rahimi speaks four languages and through his contacts in the immigrant community, he meets and interviews newcomers looking for work.
One of them, Rashid Faris, came to Winnipeg a year ago as a refugee from Jordan, where he was living after leaving his home country of Iraq.
For the past four months, the 22-year-old has been working at Baraka Pita Bakery and Restaurant in Winnipeg. He's one of five refugee staff members at the restaurant.
"Omar tell me, maybe I have a job for you in restaurant. I come to here, I talk with boss, he said to me, 'Come tomorrow,'" Faris said.
"It's good. Very good."
Baraka manager Rami Aboumrad says the restaurant makes a point of hiring refugees.
"They're refugees, they're looking for help. They're leaving, you know, a war zone, they're coming here to Canada. They're not exactly looking for handouts," he said.
Giving back to the community
Rahimi said there are plenty of willing workers like Faris.
"Just last night, I was about to go to bed and a Syrian newcomer called me and say, 'Please, Omar, I'm from Aleppo. I'm a painter for 20 years. I had my own crew. Please, Omar, I need to work," Rahimi said.
Rahimi hopes his website will not only help the newcomers, but those people with work that needs to be done. That way, he's giving back to the community he holds so dear, he said.
"I love Canada. Canada gave me my life. I owe everything to Winnipeg, Winnipeggers and Canada," he said.
"I lived in a camp where many of my friends died. If I didn't come to Canada in 2001, there's a very good possibility that I would have died in 2003 or 2004, where the war happened in Iraq. I'm so lucky to be here."
Rahimi is also collecting winter clothing to distribute to families experiencing their first winters.