CORNER BROOK — As Poverty Reduction Facilitator at the WestRock Community Centre, a major part of Aimee Randell’s job is breaking down barriers to employment.
Such challenges as child care, transportation and a lack of work experience can all prevent someone from joining the workforce and in turn, contribute to the cycle of poverty which plagues so many low-income families across the country.
By providing such seemingly simple things as transportation or a helping hand with a resume, Randell said it’s amazing to see the way someone’s life can be changed for the better.
“Once they get out there, you can see the change almost instantly,” Randell said. “You can see them say ‘I can actually do something with my life and get out of the cycle that I was in.’ They think they are not employable, when in all honesty, someone with no job experience, still has life experience.”
The WestRock centre, formerly known as the Dunfield Park Community Centre, has been helping residents of the area since 1991 through such programs as Homework Haven and adult basic education (ABE). The centre also offers free training in first-aid and Workplace Hazardous Materials Informations System (WHMIS) at both the Westrock Centre at Vine Place, as well as locations in Hendon Drive and Carter Avenue.
All programs are fully accessible and with a full Homework Haven program and over 350 members in the ABE program each year, WestRock has become a vital resource to the community.
It’s something Randell admits she’s seen first-hand in her two and a half years at the centre as people continue to rely upon these programs to improve their lives and financial situations.
“People are actually coming wanting to get out of systematic poverty and to join the workforce,” she said. “They are looking for ways out and we’re the hope they don’t have. They know if it’s something that’s totally unrelated to what we do, they still come here because we know where to steer them.”
By helping get citizens into the workforce, Randell said it sets a positive example for their children and the larger community that it is possible to escape the clutches of poverty.
“Just because a person lives in poverty doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing,” she said. “A lot of people can’t help where they grow up or if they don’t have access to things. By us providing that, it gets them out there and into the real world.”
Randell said the most challenging aspect of her job is tailoring programs for the specific needs of individuals turning to the centre for support.
The chance to help those people better themselves is something she admits makes the job a rewarding one.
“The best part of this job is seeing the change in people,” she said. “To see somebody start off in a program, get fully off social assistance and fully into the workforce and living on their own ... that’s the best-case scenario for us.”
She said there is always room to grow and that staff is exploring the possibility of partnering with other community groups to establish a homeless shelter in the city.
Whatever the case, she said the centre is prepared to continue to help reduce poverty.
“There are always going to be barriers and so there will always be ways to fight those barriers. It’s a constant battle,” she said.