At Working Women Community Centre we believe that immigrant women are at the core of successful families and thriving communities. By empowering immigrant women we help create more engaged mothers, daughters, colleagues and members of the community. In fact, studies have shown that when a woman is given an opportunity to realize her full potential, we all are better for it.
Over the last 35 years, Working Women has enabled thousands of immigrant women to do more and be more within their families and their community. We’ve shown newcomers to this country they not only have the potential to fully participate in their community but the responsibility to do so as capable and talented working women.
We offer a variety of much needed services to the immigrant community, however one of the hallmarks of Working Women is our reputation as a leader among Toronto charity organizations, introducing successful initiatives that other agencies then adopt.
Here are a few ways we’ve led the charge in helping immigrant women:
- Opened the first and only community Hub in north-eastern Toronto. The Hub is what is known as an enterprising community centre, a modern concept that brings together a variety of agencies under one shared space for the purpose of delivering services conveniently and cost-effectively. The area around Victoria Park north was virtually lacking in services for the burgeoning immigrants calling that area of the city home until Working Women partnered with the United Way to open the Hub.
- Established the first city-wide ethno-specific tutoring program for underachieving students. The program, which initially focused on students of Portuguese descent and then expanded to those of Spanish-speaking heritage, was started in response to the alarming drop-out rate among these youth groups. The program, On Your Mark, has increased ten-fold since starting in 2001 and boasts a 70% post-secondary enrollment rate among participants.
- Introduced the internationally acclaimed HIPPY program to Toronto. HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters) championed in the USA by Hillary Clinton, was implemented in Toronto after Working Women realized the positive impact this program has in teaching immigrant women how to set their children up for success within the Canadian school system. After just six years, this popular program has spread across the city and tripled in number of participants.
- Developed the largest community garden for newcomers in North America. With over a 110 organic garden plots, this joint venture with the Advent Lutheran Church and the City of Toronto provides more than just food for an estimated 1,000 immigrant women and their families living in apartments in the vicinity. The garden is not only an opportunity for newcomers to learn about organic living but it also provides an outdoor living space for newcomers in the area to make friends with neighbours they would never have met if it wasn’t for this socially and environmentally engaging initiative.
- First introduced Cook & Talk, a series of social gatherings that served initially to bring immigrant women together to forge friendships and share food. The program proved to offer the women so much more, namely a way to deal with loneliness and share solutions to their everyday problems. This simple yet impactful program that allows newcomers to engage with their community has now been adopted by many agencies throughout the GTA.
- Introduced a service program for live-in caregivers. Considering the large number of immigrant caregivers in the city, this was a group of working women whose needs were largely overlooked. Working Women was the first to provide a comprehensive group of services, including education on healthcare and employment rights, to this hardworking yet underserved group of women.