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VANCOUVER
AGREEMENT

Frank’s Story:

The Gods smiled down on me

Reprinted with permission from BOB | Building Opportunities with Business

FrankFrank completed the Business Links Customer Service training program at BOB in September of 2007. Since then he has been employed by Rona, one of the Business Links sponsors. Here is his story in his own words:

“Eight years ago was a very trying time for me. I turned 50, was recently divorced, did not see my three children often enough and was laid off from my job of 10 years. Plus I was also in the process of recovering from four operations.

Between 2002 and 2007 I was living on $510 each month Social Assistance. After paying rent I was left with $85 per month for food, transportation and all living expenses. No way to enjoy life! So what did I do for five years? I hibernated, became depressed and couldn’t see how anyone would want to hire a burnt out, mid-50s fellow with health concerns. In other words I couldn’t see how life could ever improve.

Then one day in 2007 I went to Tradeworks Job Shop. Why I went, I don’t know because I wasn’t expecting anything to change my circumstances. At Tradeworks, the staff all helped me build my confidence and self esteem by assisting me with getting new clothes, glasses, food vouchers and even a haircut. All this made me feel a little more positive about myself and gave me the motivation to begin looking for a job.

Tradeworks then directed me to a Customer Service Training program being run by Building Opportunities with Business (BOB). Within the group workshop, I was with other people who were in similar situations to me and so I no longer felt alone. We fed off each other’s plight and encouraged one another.

Ramesh from BOB and the program trainers offered encouragement, support and positive influence in building my confidence level to the point where I realized I could go out – find some employment and begin to feel better about myself and my future. During the weeklong course we were also offered tours of Safeway, Rona and talks from the HR managers.

Upon completing the course I was offered interviews with both Safeway and Rona. They both offered me positions in different departments. Wow! Here I was offered two jobs where I thought I would never even undergo a successful interview. I decided to accept the offer of working in the seasonal department of Rona. I was very lucky in that I had a very supportive team of co-workers and team leaders but most importantly I was fortunate to have a HR manager who had a good understanding of my financial, social and health issues.

So four months later, what does my life look like since the BOB BusinessLinks training and the Supported Employment Program? Firstly, but not the most important thing is that instead of $510 per month, I now make at least double that. That definitely provides me with a higher quality of living and quantity of food for my table. Also, I can now afford cable, a phone and Internet. I can also use public transit and splurge for the occasional restaurant lunch or dinner out. Money is nice but the best thing about it is that it allows the freedom to visit different galleries, libraries or go to a movie.

The largest impact on my life is that socially I can step out of my shell. At Rona, I can do this with my fellow staff and customers. Now I feel better about myself, which has led me to reconnect with my old soccer coach buddies who I had been avoiding over the past few years. I was just too depressed to face myself in the mirror, never mind my old friends.

I’m also in the process of moving out of my tiny, almost windowless basement apartment into a bigger place with large windows, a bathtub (!!!), fridge, stove oven and a balcony. Yes indeed, the gods have smiled down on me – it’s like I’ve won the lottery, yes it really does feel like that.

I think my life is on the upswing. Tradeworks started me off on this upward trend. But it was Ramesh and his colleagues at BOB that helped me pick up the ball and run with it and for that my never ending thanks to them all.

Finally, they say, “Bob’s your Uncle.” Well I would say, “BOB’s my best friend.”
Thank you very much Ramesh and Liz.
With respect, sincerely,
Frank.”

Update, July 2009

In the 18 months that Frank has worked for Rona, his confidence has grown. “When I first started at Rona, I was pretty shy,” he remembers. “I was not confident in answering inquires on the phone. Now I start every shift looking forward to assisting customers in person and on the phone.”

Liz Charyna, Manager, Partnerships & Supported Employment at BOB, recently visited Frank at work. “A customer called to tell Frank how pleased he was with Frank’s service when buying a barbeque,” she recalls. “Then during that call, the customer ordered a $2,000 patio set!”

Since 2004, the Vancouver Agreement has provided significant funding to BOB for core operations, training programs, database development, and project development as well as the implementation of such programs as the Business Links Employment Program, the Business Cluster Strategy and the Case Coordination Project.

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