A lot has changed for Outflow Ministry since they served their first community supper in October 2008. What began as a volunteer-led initiative to feed Saint John’s homeless has blossomed into so much more. Through the Catapult Social Enterprises, Outflow is providing jobs and opportunities to people in Saint John who have fallen on hard times, and recently to newcomers to Canada.
Outflow’s executive director Jayme Hall describes the registered non-profit as a ministry of kindness, compassion and justice. The organization operates a men’s homeless shelter – where they serve five meals to the community weekly – a dental clinic, and Catapult Training and Employment.
“The whole employment side of things was never the intention of Outflow when we started, and it’s exciting,” says Jayme. After seeing the same people walk through the door day after day, the Outflow team wanted do more than simply giving handouts. They wanted to empower the people they saw each week, and encourage them to turn their lives around and provide for themselves. Catapult Training and Employment gives them that opportunity.
Whether someone had been chronically unemployed due to past incarceration, addictions or mental health issues, Catapult gives them a chance to have a job and gain the experience they need to keep working.
“For us as an organization it’s really energizing and there’s a real peace about that,” says Jayme. “Even if it’s just one person that we can help that way, it’s a really powerful piece to our ministry.”
The Catapult Social Enterprises include Catapult Construction, Catapult Creative, and Catapult Café and Studio. These businesses provide opportunity in Saint John for people with barriers to employment to gain valuable work experience – including newcomers to the province.
Jayme says he was initially hesitant about hiring newcomers. He wasn’t sure what to expect after being so entrenched in helping the local community and not knowing much about different cultures. Would there be cultural and language barriers? Would they mesh well with his team?
“I’m a small town guy, just thinking … small,” he says with a laugh. But having new staff members who had previously worked with newcomers was all the encouragement he needed to take a chance on someone new. By trusting his staff, Jayme and his Outflow co-founder, Phil Appleby, have hired a number of newcomers to the team at Catapult with great skills in woodworking and crafts.
“It’s obvious they’ve come to our ministry with skill but there are barriers with the language,” he explains.
While newcomers gain employment experience at Catapult, they also continue training with other organizations – like the YMCA – improving their language skills and learning more about Canada. Despite these barriers, Jayme says they don’t need to have huge conversations in order to understand one another. He describes a pair of employees – a newcomer talented in woodworking, and an artist-in-residence who is a local Saint Johner, who faced his own barriers to finding full-time employment. The artist creates a painting, and the newcomer builds a frame for it – all the while they get along, work side by side, and create a completed piece.
“When we get together on initiatives that actually create something, a bigger picture, that’s quite phenomenal and takes away all language barriers,” Jayme says.
For the newcomers, having the chance to work full time is an opportunity that so many struggle to find. Not only can they practice their English language skills, and learn more about Canadian culture and the workplace, having that extra line on their resumé makes a big difference. It makes it easier for Canadian employers to consider them, to allow them to continue to grow and provide for their families.
For Jayme, the experience he’s had with his newcomer employees has opened his eyes. “It’s been awesome so far and I hope there’s more,” he says. “I’ve had my whole opinion of what it could be like changed and refocused.”
For other employers in Saint John who may be hesitant about hiring newcomers, Jayme suggests: “just go for it.”
“My thoughts around an employer would simply be to trust your ministry team, or your business people you’re working with, so you can thrive as a company and experience life.”