My name is Jennifer Lundrigan, and I work for the Department of Canadian Heritage in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. I’m speaking to you today from my home which is located on the island of Ktaqmkuk, the unceded, traditional territory of the Beothuk and Mi’kmaq. I would be remiss not to also mention the island’s beautiful neighbour, Labrador, as the traditional and ancestral homeland of the Innu and Inuit.
I began my career as a dance teacher. I grew up dreaming of a career as a performing artist. To pay for dance lessons, I worked at summer camps, in daycares, and in several other caregiver positions. Through this work, it became apparent to me, that my passion for dance was second to my passion for helping people. I combined the two, and had a successful career as a dance teacher for over 15 years. In 2014, I transitioned to a career with the public service, although I was excited, I was missing something, I was no longer directly helping others reach their potential.
This was the case, until I found the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization. When I first contacted OCISO, I immediately sensed that the team shared my joy in helping others. Through the many learning opportunities and workshops that OCISO offered, and the many candid phone calls that I had with the management team, I felt supported in my role as a mentor. I was matched with a mentee who I shared incredibly rich conversations with during our 8 month mentorship, I have attended workshops that strengthened my mentoring skills, such as the Strengthening Cultural Competencies workshop, and I have been introduced to several other mentors across the country, helping me to build a strong support network. Working with the team at OCISO has helped me realize that I can transfer my teaching skills from the dance studio to the public service. Because of OCISO, I am also now a mentor and supervisor for a student with intellectual disabilities in their first job with the Government of Canada.
When I was asked to speak at today’s graduation event, I was initially quite nervous. As I considered the opportunity though, I realized, that every significant achievement in my life, began with nervousness. Leaving my home to study dance in the big city of Toronto, the transition from dance student to dance teacher, eventually leaving my career in dance for a career with the public service, and more recently, the nervousness I felt when contacting OCISO to express my desire to become a mentor. In my reflection, it was impossible to ignore that each of these experiences, which started with uncertainty, turned into my life’s most beautiful and celebrated achievements. My experience as a FIN mentor, is now one of these celebrated achievements. This inward reflection reminded me of the great hurdles that newcomers might have to overcome, as they embark on their new opportunities in Canada, and with the public service. Hence, why I am here speaking to you, to celebrate the great accomplishments, and the barriers that have been overcome by all, particularly those of Canada’s newcomers.
The beauty in this country, is highlighted in its cultural diversity. The Government of Canada and its public service must reflect this beauty, and the FIN participants are key contributors to helping us reach this goal. It is perhaps obvious to view a mentorship as simply the mentor helping the mentee, but I have come to learn, that it is so much greater than just that. On a personal level, I feel great joy in helping someone achieve their goals and this was no doubt the driving force behind my interest in the program. As my mentoring experience and my FIN network continues to grow, I realize that the mentorships are far from one-sided. The mentor and the mentee are equal members of a team, working together toward the same goal. The goal of creating a public service that reflects the beauty of this country’s diversity, by representing the experiences and the unique perspectives of all its residents
For making this possible, I would like to thank the FIN management team, whose dedication and positivity has become a guiding light for us all. Thank you to the mentors who see the importance of their contributions, and who may have also overcome the nervousness that comes with stepping into this role. Thank you to the departmental managers and executives who recognize the value in the diversity of culture and experience. And, most importantly, thank you to each and every one of the FIN participants who have demonstrated their commitment to building an even more beautiful Canada.
I could go on about the many rewards and benefits that come with being a FIN mentor, but I will simply say that if you, or someone you know is interested, just go for it. You will receive every support you need, and I promise you will not regret it.
In closing, I will say congratulations once again, to every one of my FIN teammates, as we collectively push past our varying barriers, to achieve our personal and shared goals. Congratulations FIN participants! I wish you every success for your future.