NADIRA, TORONTO
When Nadira first started working as a peer advocate at the Regent Park Community Food Centre, she observed offering welcoming, healthy meals was a great way to start talking to people about the issues they are facing in their lives. “Once people have access to food, they often want information from our advocacy office. We can make a link of where people can go.” To Nadira, the food at the centre is both healthy and appropriate to the needs of the community, including herself -- she was happy to see the meat was halal, and could enjoy the meals with community members.

Nadira discovered Regent Park CFC’s Community Action Training after seeing a flyer in the Parliament Public Library. She has a Masters degree in social work from Bangladesh, and supporting others has always been a passion of hers. But as a new mother in a new community and country, she felt isolated. When she started the training, she knew she was on the right path to helping others and herself.

Fast-forward four months, and Nadira was one of six peer advocates greeting community members in Regent Park CFC’s advocacy office. With every community member she assisted, her confidence grew: “When they smile – when we help our clients and they are thankful – then I feel very good that I can do something for them. I feel confidence.”

One of her proudest moments came from helping a woman she had met while they were dropping their children off at school. Nadira quickly realized she was facing similar issues to herself: isolation, and feeling powerless to make the changes she wanted to make in her life. Over several months, Nadira helped her take the steps to become a childcare worker. “Mentally, physically: she’s excellent. She’s never angry anymore,”

One of the most important things Nadira has learned while supporting the community is that small steps make a big difference. "Each resource offered here can have a larger impact than expected, whether it’s a healthy meal or advice and support."  And the impact shows: in 2014, 85.2% of people who used advocacy office services at Community Food Centres found them helpful in resolving their issues.

One small step – picking up a flyer on Community Action Training – has turned into a bigger step for Nadira, too: next year, she will be going back to school in Ryerson University’s Internationally Educated Social Work Professionals program. “For our community, this is a great resource. We’re lucky to work here. They have a community garden, they have food skills…It’s changed our community.”