National Post: Championing a gentle approach to culture

Championing a gentle approach to culture

When Amanda Clarke joined Creative Options Regina (COR) to take on the new role of director of people and culture in 2019, she knew there was something special about the organization. “I discovered I can go to work, have fun, and know at the end of the day know that I am working on something more meaningful,” says Clarke, who is now chief culture officer. COR is a winner in the Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures Awards’ Non-Profit and Broader Public Sector category.

Launched in Regina in 2009, COR serves a distinct role in the non-profit sector. It develops personalized support services for people experiencing disability. Rather than running group homes or placing individuals into programs, COR supports people living in their own homes, where they can discover their own talents and interests, live according to their own values, and strive to reach their personal goals.

What stood out for Clarke from the outset is the culture, she says. “The biggest change for me is the support of the people we work alongside day to day. That makes a huge difference in today’s workplace. While I am not on the front lines, our culture is also about serving our employees, bringing people together in a meaningful way, and building future leaders.”

Since its inception, the organization has embraced the philosophy of gentle teaching as an alternative approach to supporting people with disabilities. This culture of gentleness — which focuses on nurturing, teaching and sustaining the experience of connectedness, companionship and community — is woven into all aspects of the organization, from the people it hires and mentors, to the people supported and their family members.

“Gentle teaching is not just for the people we support, but for everybody,” says Clarke. “At the heart of it all is the connections with people. Our team is making a difference for each other and the lives of the people we support. That’s why we are all very passionate about what we do.”

COR also prides itself on its diversity. Currently, its employees represent upwards of 50 nationalities, many of whom recommend friends and family members to apply. “We have never had to advertise a position,” says Casey Sakires, employee experience advisor. “Our hires have all been by word of mouth. In fact, COR has never posted a frontline caregiver position. In the past year alone, we have received more that 450 applications.”

Diversity is recognized and nurtured in the form of panel discussions, special luncheons and celebrations of festivals near and dear to employees, such as Ramadan, Diwali and Indigenous rituals. As Dhwani Purohit, a team leader, noted, “I was never able to share or experience Diwali in Canada. The way COR has celebrated Diwali — including support with lights, decorations, food and, most amazingly, all the guests participating in traditional dance from my (Gujarat side Garba) — was an experience which I would never be able to share without COR.”

“The events highlighting people’s journeys are eye-opening and educational for everyone,” notes Clarke. “We can see the joy in them being able to share their stories with an audience. It’s the culture that makes it possible. Hiring for fit is integral to sustaining COR’s culture, says Sakires. “A culture that makes people feel safe is so important in building relationships.”Understanding individual personal values and how they align with COR’s values is the primary focus of the first interview, he explains. “We are looking for that value set — in essence people who want to make a difference in someone’s life and be that consistent person for the people we support and serve. Most of the people we do hire don’t have care experience but do have the heart and the values that make COR a success.”

Every new hire’s journey starts with 30 hours of shadowing and up to three months of mandatory training in the fundamentals of gentle teaching, working with people with complex health needs, and learning about critical areas such as mental health support and suicide prevention.

Within the first three months, employees also participate in a full-day orientation led by the CEO and COO to deepen their understanding of the history of COR, and the culture in which it embraces. During onboarding, employees are registered for training programs emphasizing health and safety, including mental health, stress management and coping skills. COR’s train-the-trainer approach delivers over 20 nationally recognized trainings offered in-house to all employees on paid time. COR also offers incentives throughout the year, from bonuses and swag to personalized notes and appreciation days.

In 2023, the organization launched the COR Academy, an initiative that focuses on COR’s renewed vision to influence care more broadly. Through the COR Academy, training and development programs are offered to the broader community, alongside COR employees. The initiative also focuses on individual and organizational mentorship, offering both internal and external mentorship from experienced leaders. “People feel valued when we invest in developing their potential,” says Clarke.

“We are just at the initial stage of developing the academy,” she adds. “There is a lot of potential to reach a lot of people doing a lot of great things. We have an opportunity to influence others in a different way of thinking about care.”

Another critical element of its culture is the health and wellness support. “Psychological support in our field is important,” says Clarke. “Because caregiving is an emotionally demanding role, sometimes they may need to reduce hours or have additional access to mental health resources. We understand that if we treat our caregivers well, we know the people we serve will be well cared for.”

The numbers tell a compelling story. COR’s yearly annual turnover rate has remained between four and 10 per cent since its inception — an impressive feat considering the average for the sector exceeds 35 per cent annually.

COR is also a consistent presence in the community at large. “A great deal of the team’s efforts are spent connecting with community,” says Sakires. He stresses that all charitable programs are employee-driven and based on interest, which drives strong participation and engagement. In the past year alone, COR employees have supported over 20 different non-profit/community organizations.

Community relationships include COR’s 4to40 inclusive employment initiative that works with businesses to champion the inclusion of people experiencing intellectual disability, a joint venture with the University of Regina in supporting diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) strategies of fellow Saskatchewan businesses.

In 2020, COR launched a “Short Breaks” initiative with Inclusion Regina and the City of Regina to address the need for quality programming in a safe, supportive environment for family care providers. The organization also partners with Indigenous educational programs, band offices and cultural groups. In 2021, COR developed an Indigenous culture advisor position, and all employees are enrolled in both Indigenous awareness and diversity training.

“All of these efforts strengthen our diversity and enrich our community connections,” says Sakires. Tara Osipoff, vice chair of the Creative Options Regina board, notes “I’ve witnessed firsthand the profound impact of the gentle teaching practice at COR. It’s a practice that illuminates the culture with compassion and understanding, fostering an environment where both the people we serve and our dedicated employees feel valued, respected and loved. This nurturing atmosphere not only supports growth and healing but also empowers everyone involved to reach their full potential. It’s truly heartwarming to see the difference the gentle teaching philosophy makes through kindness and patience, reinforcing our belief that caring for one another with gentleness is the most powerful tool we have.”

Read the Article on the National Post Website.

Proud to be named a Finalist in the 2024 Paragon Awards: Diversity and Inclusion

The Regina & District Chamber of Commerce (RDCC) marked an important milestone on April 12, 2024 with the 25th Annual Paragon Awards, a celebration of Regina’s most outstanding businesses.

“For the past 25 years the Chamber has recognized exceptional members in our business community and this year’s winners are prime examples of local leaders and innovators who have displayed determination and impressive character in challenging economic times,” said Tony Playter, CEO of the Regina & District Chamber of Commerce.

COR proud to be named a Finalist in the Diversity and Inclusion category.

COR recognized as one of Saskatchewan’s Top Employers (2024)

Big city benefits, an affordable cost of living and time for life beyond the workplace: ‘Saskatchewan’s Top Employers’ for 2024 are announced

REGINA, March 12, 2024 – With its young and dynamic workforce, affordable cost of living and strong economy, Saskatchewan is increasingly identified as an ideal place to build a career with a healthy work-life balance. Employers in the province are responding by taking notice of the leading workplace initiatives and benefits from across the country to entice more people to province’s attractive labour market. The best of these stories were recognized today as Saskatchewan’s Top Employers (2024) were announced by Mediacorp Canada Inc., organizers of the annual Canada’s Top 100 Employers project.

“Saskatchewan has seen a steady increase in new residents, who are attracted to an affordable place where they can put down roots and improve their quality of life,” says Richard Yerema, executive editor at the Canada’s Top 100 Employers project. “Increasingly, your workplace is not limited by geography and Saskatchewan offers the perfect middle ground – literally and figuratively – between both ends of the country. It’s no surprise that people from across the country have identified Saskatchewan as an ideal place to have a satisfying career with a high quality of life.”

Saskatchewan is renowned for offering residents a healthy work-life balance, while providing the advantages of a growing economy. Employers in Saskatchewan have taken notice of the benefits and workplace programs offered elsewhere in Canada to ensure they are competitive nationally. This combination of top-notch benefits and workplace programs along with enviable lifestyle options beyond the workplace has helped this year’s winners attract and retain the talented employees they need to thrive.

“Feeling connected to others and experiencing a true sense of community is a huge part of the draw for Saskatchewan,” adds Yerema. “So many Canadians are searching for a place to live that’s affordable, while still offering the ability to build a fulfilling life outside the workplace. Winning employers in Saskatchewan understand these challenges and are focused on helping their employees achieve those dreams.”

Now in its 19th year, Saskatchewan’s Top Employers is a special designation that recognizes Saskatchewan employers that lead their industries in offering exceptional places to work. Editors at Mediacorp review employers on eight criteria, which have remained consistent since the2 project’s inception: (1) Workplace; (2) Work Atmosphere & Social; (3) Health, Financial & Family Benefits; (4) Vacation & Time Off; (5) Employee Communications; (6) Performance Management; (7) Training & Skills Development; and (8) Community Involvement. The editors publish detailed ‘reasons for selection’ for these criteria, providing transparency in the selection of winners and a catalogue of best practices for employers and job-seekers alike. The competition is open to any employer with its head office or principal place of business located within the province of Saskatchewan.

Founded in 1992, Mediacorp Canada Inc. is the nation’s largest publisher of employment periodicals. Since 1999, the Toronto-based publisher has managed the Canada’s Top 100 Employers project, which includes 19 regional and special-interest editorial competitions that reach millions of Canadians annually through a variety of magazine and newspaper partners, including The Globe and Mail. Mediacorp also operates, one of Canada’s largest job search engines, used by millions of job-seekers annually to find new job postings and discover what the nation’s best employers are offering.

The full list of Saskatchewan’s Top Employers (2024) was announced today in a special magazine co-published with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix and the Regina-Leader Post. Detailed ‘reasons for selection’ for each of this year’s winners, as well as stories and photos about their initiatives, were released today by the editors and are accessible via the competition homepage.



Saskatchewan’s Top Employers 2024 Winners

3sHealth / Health Shared Services Saskatchewan, Regina

Access Communications Co-operative Ltd., Regina

Andgo Systems, Saskatoon

Bourgault Industries Ltd., St. Brieux

Canpotex Limited, Saskatoon

Cornerstone Credit Union Financial Group Ltd., Yorkton

Creative Options Regina, Inc., Regina

eHealth Saskatchewan, Regina

First Nations Bank of Canada, Saskatoon3

Group Medical Services / GMS Insurance Inc., Regina

Information Services Corporation / ISC, Regina

ISM, Regina

Lakefield LLP, Saskatoon

Legal Aid Saskatchewan, Saskatoon

MLT Aikins LLP, Regina

Nutrien Ltd., Saskatoon

Ranch Ehrlo Society, Regina

Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Commission, Regina

Saskatchewan Blue Cross, Saskatoon

Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation / SCIC, Melville

Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority / SIGA, Saskatoon

Saskatchewan Polytechnic, Saskatoon

Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation, Saskatoon

Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board, Regina

Saskatoon Police Service, Saskatoon

SaskEnergy Incorporated, Regina

SaskPower, Regina

SaskTel, Regina

Synergy Credit Union Ltd., Lloydminster

Vendasta Technologies Inc., Saskatoon

COR Stories: Michael Madugba’s journey to Canada and COR

Michael Madugba is from a family of five from the eastern part of Nigeria. Nigeria is an African country on the Gulf of Guinea well known for its many natural landmarks and wildlife reserves.

Michael shared that his parents prioritized education while they were growing up (because of their teaching and banking background). Following his first degree in Public Administration, he pursued a diploma course in Health and Social Care in the United Kingdom. During his practicum, Michael developed a keen interest in supporting vulnerable adults. He engaged in hands-on work with individuals with learning disabilities and dedicated his time as a volunteer mentor for those struggling with drug addiction. On his return to Nigeria, he worked with the government as a legislative aide before deciding to pursue a post-graduate degree with the University of Saskatchewan (UofS). His interest to come and pursue his education in Canada was greatly influenced by his friends and cousins who were already in Canada.

Michael shared that he arrived in Canada with a study permit, and upon completing his studies, he successfully applied for and received an open work permit. The application process for the study and work permit went smoothly. However, the application for the immigration of his family didn’t happen as smoothly as his. There was a significant delay in the visa processing for his family when they applied to join him in Canada.

Since moving to Canada, Michael shared that he has fostered meaningful relationships that have influenced his life. “I even have an adopted family in Saskatoon. My journey has been marked by memorable and positive encounters, contrary to the common fear of racism that newcomers face,” said Michael.

While attending the University of Saskatchewan, Michael developed a passion for working with vulnerable adults which prompted him to assume a part-time support worker position with Saskatchewan Alternative Initiative (SAI). Later that year, when he had to move from Saskatoon to Regina for a Co-op assignment with a government agency, SAI recommended him for a support role with COR, as both organizations share the same support philosophy of Gentle Teaching.

Following the conclusion of his co-op posting, Michael accepted a term position with the Government of Saskatchewan as a policy advisor. Despite his new responsibilities, he remains devoted to actively contributing to his team’s effort of fostering a wholesome, safe, and loving environment for the poeple he supports. “My interactions with the individuals, fellow team members, and the COR family have been incredibly positive,” mentioned Michael.

Asked about cultural shock in his country of adoption, Michael shared that a notable observation of him was the widespread popularity of camping in the country. It often surprises his Canadian friends that he has never gone camping before. “My adventurous and open-minded nature played a crucial role in my ability to adapt and integrate successfully. Additionally, my extensive international travel experience has fostered a genuine enthusiasm for meeting people, embracing diverse cultures, and understanding various perspectives” shared Michael.

Michael’s integration to life in Canada wasn’t challenging for him, as he had a comprehensive understanding of what to expect upon arrival. Prior to coming to Canada, his cousins and childhood friend shared their daily life experiences with him. Further, he completed an online course on Canadian people and culture, gaining valuable insights. “I was well-prepared for the weather, understanding that -35°C could be exceptionally cold, and I made sure to dress for the weather” shared Michael. However, the one unexpected piece of information he learned about Canada was the extent of the drug addiction challenges Canada faces, and this was a shock for him, considering Canada is a developed country with a high quality of life.

“After residing in Canada for three years, my expectations have been met and even exceeded. If given the opportunity to go back in time, would I choose Canada once more? Absolutely, YES!” said Michael. “My role as a Key Support Worker has evolved into an integral aspect of my daily life, as I consistently apply the principles of Gentle Teaching in my daily interactions and relationships. I would recommend COR to anyone, especially newcomers that are passionate about human services. Beyond the support you provide, the organization is dedicated to the well-being and personal development of its team members,” shared Michael.

Thank you, Michael, for choosing COR, we are grateful to have you as an integral part of our family and we are grateful for your contribution.


Written by Joana Valamootoo

COR Stories: Marvelous’ Journey to Canada and COR

Marvelous was born and raised in Nigeria — a multinational state inhabited by more than 250 ethnic groups speaking 500 distinct languages, all identifying with a wide variety of cultures. Marvelous immigrated to Canada to pursue her tertiary education. She chose Canada as her destination because it offers a world-class education. Another reason why she chose Canada was because of the multiculturalism that exists in the country.

Part of settling down in a new country means going through the rigorous immigration process. Marvelous shared that the process for her study permit was fairly straight forward, but it demanded a lot of patience and also hoping for the best as many people who seek immigration to Canada get refused every year. According to information from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), 30 percent of all study permit applications to Canada are rejected.

Asked about the biggest culture shock Marvelous had to face upon her arrival to Canada, Marvelous replied that she didn’t really face cultural shock. “Personally, I had done lots of research before coming to Canada and it helped me in my journey as a student and as a professional.” But even with doing research, nobody is ever prepared for the harsh winter weather! Marvelous said that she easily adapted to the weather once she got used to it. She also shared that she would have liked to know about the tax system in Canada. The tax system differs from country to country and Canada remains one of the countries where people pay higher taxes. On a positive note, healthcare, education and paid leaves for new parents are what attracts people to come to Canada.

Even though it was not always easy to adapt, Marvelous shared that if she has to do it all over again, she would still choose Canada. “It’s a welcoming place to be in for all cultural diversity, and a place to further intellectual abilities” mentioned Marvelous.

If there is one thing Marvelous misses about her country, it’s the food! It’s difficult to get everything she is used to eating in Nigeria.

Asked about how she joined COR, Marvelous shared that she started her journey with COR as a job coach with the 4to40 Initiative and really like helping the people we support in such an important part of their lives. “The fact that I am able to fulfill my dream of supporting people and getting paid for it makes it easy to work at COR” shared Marvelous. “I love that the pillars of gentle teaching are embedded at the core of COR, it positively changes the face of caring and supporting people” shared Marvelous about our philosophy of gentleness.

For future goals, Marvelous hopes to fully settle down in Regina, get a degree and advance her career at COR. Marvelous aspires to become a leader at COR.

Thank you Marvelous for sharing your journey to Canada, we are grateful to have you as part of our team and we pride ourselves on knowing that you love what you do and that your purpose connects with our purpose at COR.


Written by Joana Valamootoo

COR Stories: Paramisher Singh’s Journey to Canada and COR

Paramisher Singh was born and raised in Punjab, India. Punjab is a state in the northwest region of India and is one of the most prosperous states. The name Punjab is made of two words Punj (Five) + Aab (Water) i.e., land of five rivers. Param was 18 years old when he immigrated to Canada in 2018 to pursue his studies as a Continuing Care Assistant at the Parkland College in Yorkton.

Param shared that the journey to Canada was relatively easy and straight forward. After completing Grade 12 in India, Param said he didn’t know what he wanted to do and didn’t really have a sense of direction. A friend of his dad, who is an immigration agent, talked to his dad about Canada and soon the plan was becoming a reality and he was applying for his study permit. “I had excellent scores for Grade 12, good scores for English Language test and this contributed to making the process smooth and easy for me,” said Param.

Param also said that the decision to go to Canada was not his decision, but a family decision and he was excited to come to Canada. Soon, he was preparing to immigrate to Canada to start his new life. The training at Parkland College was fairly easy and he managed to get over 90% in all his courses. He was staying in an apartment with two other people who become his close friends. They were both older than Param, and it really helped because of the good advice he got from them. Param shared he was young, innocent and naïve and having these two friends in the beginning of his journey made a positive impact early on. He also made friends with three Canadian girls at Parkland College where he was studying, and they introduced him to the Canadian culture and helped him navigate the uncertainty of being a new immigrant. “I also had good teachers that were very accepting of differences” mentioned Param.

When Param came to Canada, he had long hair and wore a turban. He shared that he had never experienced overt racism, but he shared that people look at him differently when he wears his turban. “People also asked me questions, such as: Do I travel on camels in India? Are there cars in India? I don’t mind people asking me questions. I think the more you look different, the more people look at you and have questions” Param shared.

While studying at Parkland College, Param started his first part-time job at Walmart. “It was just a job; it was not related to my purpose or what I really wanted to do, but I did enjoy it,” said Param. After his studies were completed in Yorkton, Param applied for a job at COR and got an interview. “I remember meeting Rory McCorriston and after my interview, he told me there will be another interview and I asked him if it was possible to do the second interview on the same day as I live in Yorkton.” Rory made a couple of calls and then he told Param that he will be able to do the second interview on the same day. “A few days later, I got a call from Rory and he informed me that I got the job,” Param shared proudly. I got ready and moved to Regina to start work at COR.

The first day in Regina did not go as planned. Param had an accident and he had no car to drive, but fortunately he was able to borrow a car from a friend. Param shared it was a very stressful time of his life. Eventually, after a few months, he was able to buy another car.

Param shared that settling in Regina was tough as he didn’t know anyone and he didn’t instantly make friends. He was renting a room in a basement and it was not a nice place. He felt depressed and moved to an apartment to live with another roommate. “My roommate is Canadian and he became my friend and to this date, he is one of my best friends” shared Param. His roommate moved out when he got married. Now Param lives with his sister, who also works at COR.

After 4 years in Regina, Param mentioned that he now feels a part of the community. He has a good circle of both Canadian and Indian friends. “I do not think it would have been that easy if I was not working at COR, with the culture of gentleness, I feel like most people at COR accept me for who I am and appreciate me. I feel that sense of belonging in the workplace and I know that it is not like that in every workplace,” said Param.

Asked if he has any regrets coming to Canada and Param said that he made the right decision for the opportunity that Canada provides. At the same time, it was not only his decision, it was a family decision for him to come to Canada. “I do wonder how life would have been if I had decided to stay in India”, mentioned Param. At the same time, change is the only thing that is constant and Param shared that he would not have been the person he is now, if he didn’t make those decisions. He shared that he is self-reliant, self-independent, financially independent and age-wise he is mature for his age and mentally strong to overcome any life challenges. “I know my family will always be there for me, but I know I can depend on myself” shared Param. He confesses that it has both pros and cons; coming here at a young age and living by yourself can make one person grow distant with family. The solitude one person lives when they immigrate alone to Canada means also getting used to being lonely and understanding personal space and healthy boundaries. “At some point, I needed to change to adapt and I could not stick to who I was, I made changes to adapt” shared Param.

Like thousands of immigrants who come to Canada for a better future and opportunities, Param was brave enough to make a decision that would change his life and also change the lives of other people he interacts with in Canada and at COR. Param shares that working at COR is living his purpose and he feels fulfilled and happy to make a difference.

Thank you Param for being you, for making a difference every day at COR, we see you and we are grateful to have you as part of our COR family.


Written by Joana Valamootoo

COR Stories: Tayef Ahmed’s Journey to Canada and COR

Tayef Ahmed immigrated from Bangladesh to Canada to pursue his studies. He said that he was planning to study abroad, and while researching different places, Tayef felt that Canada was very welcoming and it was a good attraction for international students from across the globe. Thinking about the economy, programs of study, and future potential of him settling down, Canada was his top priority for his undergraduate studies. Tayef is now studying at the University of Regina. Besides being a full-time student, Tayef works as an Executive Director at a nonprofit in Regina. Tayef also has a very important role at COR; he is the Executive Services Coordinator — performing support to the COR Board of Directors.

Before joining COR, Tayef heard about COR from some of his friends who was working at COR. He shared that he honestly never thought of working at COR since his field of study is completely different than what COR does. However, a colleague of his at the U of R asked him if he was interested in a part time board secretarial position, but never mentioned the organization. She then passed Tayef’s information to another person who was connected with a COR board member who then passed his info to Amanda. Tayef was excited about the position and felt it was a great opportunity to work for COR’s Board of Directors. “Within my portfolio, I like the fact that I get to assist the senior management and the board in making important decisions for the organization,” said Tayef.

Tayef also appreciates the culture at COR and he feels a sense of belonging. The best thing he likes about COR is how welcoming it is. “To me the philosophy of gentle teaching is to see someone as a complete human. Gentle Teaching makes you understand how to think and treat others with dignity and respect” mentioned Tayef.

The immigration process was something that Tayef always looks back as a learning opportunity for his personal growth. “I was a 19-year-old student thinking about moving to a new country far from home. It was not an easy decision” mentioned Tayef.

He shared that it even got harder when he started doing everything on his own. He struggled with preparing all the required documents and filling out the application forms. Some of the things that he had to go through to prove himself as a genuine applicant were unreasonable in his opinion, but he still felt obliged to follow the instructions given by the Ministry of Immigration and Citizenship Canada. “It was stressful, but an experience that shaped my future so I regret nothing. From applying to university, to receiving the confirmation of visa, it took me about 7 months” said Tayef.

Tayef’s biggest culture shock was actually our city – Regina. He shared that he loves everything about this treaty 4 territory, but his expectation was it would be a bigger city. Also, pretty much everything was different than what he anticipated. “I was young and open to learn new things, so that open mindset helped me to integrate easily” mentioned Tayef.

The weather was another culture shock for Tayef; he had to be patient and persevere through the challenges the weather was throwing his way. It was not just the weather, rather Regina is not very accessible in winter. For example, waiting for the bus, grocery shopping when it is so cold has been difficult for Tayef.

Tayef also shared that since he was a full-time student, his focus was on his studies, and that’s where he experienced some struggles. Apart from that, managing finances— accommodating high expenses were some of his daily struggles. “When I look back on those days, I reminds myself what it took to be where I am now. There were days I walked and waited for a bus for over an hour in minus 40 degrees. There were days that I could not afford to buy a coffee; and there were years that I could not even think of being outside of Regina for vacations” shared Tayef.

Tayef connected with community and felt included because of his decision to volunteer in the community with different non-profits, and he shared this has helped him meet many people.

In 2019, Tayef also started a nonprofit on his own called “You Should Garden”. Tayef was motivated to start a community garden at the university as many university students are affected by food insecurity and “there are a lot of students in poverty and they are not getting enough food to eat,”Ahmed said. Tayef organizes Regina Seedy Saturday, a yearly event for gardeners to buy, sell, and exchange seeds. He actively serves on nonprofit boards, including: The Heritage Community Association and The Carillon Newspaper.

Tayef also shared that he would have loved to know the history of this country and all about Canada’s past treatment of Indigenous people before coming here. “My first 6 months here, I was pretty ignorant toward the Indigenous people because I knew nothing about them, nor about Canada’s past whatsoever. My learning journey started with a class— INDG 100— that I took during my second semester. I would like if every university made an Indigenous Studies class mandatory for all international students. It would be incredible.” said Tayef. In 2019, Tayef suggested the U of R add this in their Academic Plan.

Asked whether he would choose Canada all over again, Tayef admits that he is not sure. He shares that with the recent tuition increases and considering the overall economy, it would have been a hard decision to make. However, Canada would have likely remained his top priority.

Tayef does not miss anything in particular in his country of origin. He shares the Canada feels like home to him. “During my first and second year, I somewhat missed some of my friends and the fun I had with them. My family travelled/lived abroad so I did not get to spend much time with them; otherwise, I would have probably missed them. I know that some people miss the food and culture; but I just feel the multiculturalism in Canada fills all of my needs” shared Tayef.

Asked about where he finds himself in 5 years and he said that he wants to be in a place where he can make a positive impact on more people’s lives and by being in a position where he gets to serve people.

Thank you, Tayef, for choosing COR and for making a difference in our organization. Your achievement and contribution to the organization is something we are proud of.


Written by Joana Valamootoo

COR Stories: Caterine Varel’s Journey to Canada and COR

Caterine Varel immigrated from Guatemala with her family in 2006. Guatemala is a country in Central America, south of Mexico that borders the Pacific Ocean and has a short coastline on the Gulf of Honduras in the Caribbean Sea. It is also bordered by Belize, El Salvador and Honduras.

Caterine and her family were victims of organized crime that threatened the safety of her entire family. Caterine said that her mother and sister were brave enough to contact authorities which led to people being arrested, but then they realized the situation was much bigger; those arrested were part a larger crime network and no matter where they decided to go in Guatemala their lives would be threatened. For this reason, Caterine and her family came to Canada under the protected persons agreement between Canada and Guatemala. This program is also known as humanitarian and compassionate considerations helping people that are affected by violence and persecutions to seek protection in Canada.

Caterine shared that it was not an easy decision to leave her country. She said that her family loved their beautiful country, but unfortunately they had to leave the lives they had behind and seek international protection, which mean starting all over somewhere new. At that time, they had the choice to seek protection from both Australia and Canada  and applied for both. It was a long process, but Canada was first to give them approval. When they heard that they were going to come to Canada, they were relieved and looking forward to starting a new life!

Caterine said that they were ready for the challenges of immigrating to a new country, but it proved more difficult than they thought. “My biggest culture shock was that we arrived in Canada with zero English and it was difficult to communicate with people, to connect and integrate in the community. The first 2 years was the most difficult. I felt isolated at school because of the language barrier. I could not communicate with anyone and it was really tough to make friends, but I was determined and never lost hope that I will be accepted in this community,” said Caterine.

What helped Caterine to adapt was the love and companionship of her family. She could relate to them as they were all experiencing the same things in their lives. Caterine said that her focus was on her education and learning English in order to integrate and be included. She is also grateful for the help her family received from “good people in the community”. They assisted her family with resources and connected her to newcomer organizations to provide her with assistance at school. She also received help to find employment and started to participate in community activities and events that helped her connect with community. By attending more activities and events in the community, she started to learn English; little by little she was able to have a conversation in English.

“Without a doubt, the most difficult culture shock is to adapt to the harsh winter in Saskatchewan. I still find it hard in winter” shared Caterine. She also shares that she loves that Canada has 4 seasons, while in Guatemala there are only 2 seasons – summer and winter! The cold weather in Guatemala is mild and it’s mostly rainy. “One thing I wished I’d known before coming is how the economy works.” She added that in Guatemala they do not declare tax and this was confusing for her to understand the system at first.

Caterine also misses the food from Guatemala. She said that it’s not so easy to find everything they had in Guatemala here in a Saskatchewan grocery store. “There are different spices that are impossible to find here. I miss the traditional food from my country.”

Asked if she would choose Canada again if she had to make a decision today and she said that she would definitely choose Canada all over again; for Caterine, Canada is a land of opportunity and she feel blessed to have a second chance of living here in Saskatchewan with her family.

Caterine was referred by her sister who previously worked at COR.

“I chose COR when I learned about the way we provide care to people, especially the philosophy of Gentleness that is not just to provide care, but to actually care about the people we support. Working here just makes me feel good. It is not just about work, it is about care and giving care to others who need it the most. I feel that working at COR is rewarding in so many ways because I am able to give back to the community that gave my family and me a second chance at living a good life full of opportunities. Being able to give back makes me feel special” said Caterine.

Asked about her dreams and goals, Caterine said that she hopes to finish her education at Saskatchewan Polytechnic in 5 years and become a lab technician. She also wants to have a little family of her own. But, for now, she wants to concentrate on her career at COR and her education as she knows education is the key to opening doors in our society. She wants to continue working and serving the community.

Thank you, Caterine, for choosing COR. We are grateful to have you and your family here and we hope to build more memories with you.


Written by Joana Valamootoo

COR Stories: Amr Eisa’s Journey to Canada and to COR

Amr Eisa is a Canadian with origins from Sudan. As part of his studies at the University of Regina, Amr joined COR as a practicum student in 2022. Amr’s parents were born in Sudan and moved to Regina when Amr was only 8 years old.

After moving to the UK for a short time, Amr’s parents set their sights on Regina. “I’ve had the pleasure of being able to go back to Sudan and spend summers there periodically, and I feel the main reason they chose to immigrate was to give a better life for their children,” said Amr. He also mentioned that his parents moved to Canada to have a peaceful life. Being safe is an important foundational layer upon which we build our lives. In places where geopolitical unrest is prevalent, this sense of safety can be threatened. “Again, when we are in circumstances of insecurity, it is often tough to reach one’s potential. My parents found it important that their children had a sense of autonomy over their lives, thus, they set out to a place where this would be possible” shared Amr. He also believes with autonomy comes opportunity, allowing one to have much more avenues to achieve what they deem success. If you ask any immigrant why they choose to move to another country, the answers they will give most often are for a peaceful life and to have more opportunities to succeed. Canada remains one of the countries where people still have a good quality of life.

The journey of immigrating to Canada was quite lengthy and difficult for Amr’s parents. Depending on where you are born and type of agreement your country of origin and Canada have impacts the length and complexity of the immigration journey.  “Being the eldest child, I’ve been able to witness the immigration process of some of my relatives and I can attest to that sentiment! It seems like a lot of paperwork, forms and medical exams need to be done before immigrating to Canada,” said Amr. According to Amr, the welcoming nature of the Canadians made it worth it!

Amr shared that his experience with schooling in Canada has been great. “I went to a smaller school from Grade 2 to Grade 12, where I was able to connect with many other people of different backgrounds, but similar faith. I think this is also part of what made it easier to adapt to Canada – finding people who I could relate to” shared Amr. Many of the friends Amr made in elementary school are still some of his closest friends today.

Being a young boy when he moved here, the biggest shock was the differences in the hobbies of the other children of his age. Coming from the UK, he absolutely loved soccer, but Amr quickly learned that other kids were more enamoured with football, basketball, and hockey. It took a little while but he eventually grew to widen his horizons in terms of sports and hobbies. “I believe a big part of adapting is having the desire to immerse yourself within the community. By being present in the community and seeking out new experiences and relationships, you will eventually find where you can fit in” shared Amr.

Out of all the culture shock, the weather was definitely the hardest to adapt to for Amr. “I believe I am still adapting to it! The culture was super easy to adapt to – I find that people in Canada love to talk about their background, whether they are native to Canada or not. Learning about the many cultures present within Canada and also being given an opportunity to teach about my culture made the adaptation seamless” shared Amr.

Amr has one regret though, he wishes he would still have the British accent, but with the years of being here in Canada he has lost the British accent. Amr also attended the UofR and got his Bachelor in Kinesiology; he really enjoyed his time at the university and made many friends.

Amr is very grateful for the choice his parents made to immigrate to Canada. “The people here are wonderful, welcoming, and open-minded. The landscape is vast and scenic, and the opportunities are endless” mentioned Amr. “I feel very lucky to grow up in an environment in which many different cultures are present. I think being surrounded by a variety of people worked wonders to opening my mind and enriching my worldview”.

Amr also confessed that he has never experienced overt racism. However, he is aware of others’ experiences and it is definitely something that is still present in our society. “I believe it is important to remember that with connection and conversation, minds can be changed” shared Amr.

Amr initially did his fieldwork with Ben Morris at the COR Studio last summer which was a super enjoyable time according to him. Amr shared that Ben was a big part in showing him how to transfer skills and passions he already has in activities he was creating; while also giving Amr constructive criticism on how to improve. “Ben and the folks at the studio played a huge role in welcoming me to COR and finding out where I fit in. From helping out at the studio, assisting at Short Breaks, and facilitating a mindfulness class, it felt great to build genuine relationships with the folks that COR supports. After completing my fieldwork, I had no choice but to apply to be a support worker! I found a niche where I can help people be the best version of themselve while fostering connections “shared Amr.

Amr believes in the world we live in, organisations like COR are absolutely vital. “Being a part of an organisation that challenges the status quo and our current care model is amazing! It seems that the ‘human element’ is something that is overlooked in providing care/support”. “COR, with its philosophy of gentle teaching not only includes the human element, but emphasizes it. The genuine relationships built within COR are a testament to this! I am very lucky to be supporting with COR” shared Amr.

Amr sees himself continuing his journey through academics while continuing to build relationships with the CORfam!

Thank you, Amr, for choosing COR, we are happy and grateful that your parents choose Canada. Having you part of our organization only enhances it and we hope you continue to build both professional and personal relationship here at COR and with the CORfam.

Written by Joana Valamootoo

COR Named One of Canada’s Most Admired Award Winners (2023)

Announcing the 2023 Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures™, Canada’s Most Admired CEO™, and Canada’s Most Admired CPCO™ Winners

TORONTONov. 23, 2023 /CNW/ – Waterstone Human Capital, Canada’s leading cultural talent advisory firm, has announced the 2023 winners of the Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures™, Canada’s Most Admired CEO™, and Canada’s Most Admired Chief People and Culture Officer™ (CPCO) program. This national program recognizes best-in-class Canadian organizations, CEOs, and CPCOs for fostering high performance corporate cultures that help sustain a competitive advantage.

“The 2023 Canada’s Most Admired award recipients exemplify how culture drives performance, especially in the face of economic uncertainty and other recruitment and retention challenges,” says Marty Parker, President and CEO of Waterstone Human Capital and Chair of the Canada’s Most Admired™ program. “This year’s winners are leveraging culture to drive growth and success in today’s highly competitive talent market through the acquisition, retention, and optimization of high-performance leaders, teams, and corporate cultures.”

Award winners are recognized in five categories including Enterprise, Mid-Market, Growth, Emerging, and the Non-Profit and Broader Public Sector. New for 2023, Waterstone Human Capital launched the Canada’s Most Admired CPCO™ Awards, which shine a spotlight on CPCOs across Canada who drive the people and talent strategy of their organizations to achieve exceptional growth and performance. The Canada’s Most Admired CEO program has also grown to include a Social Purpose Innovator award, given out in partnership with MacKay CEO Forums.

“This year’s winning leaders and organizations actively craft culture in alignment with their purpose and values every day, and help drive culture as competitive advantage,” says Parker. “On behalf of Waterstone Human Capital and our partners, we look forward to celebrating this year’s winners and the impact culture is having on their success.”

Canada’s Most Admired™ CEOs of 2023

  • Enterprise: Curtis Stange, President and CEO, ATB Financial (Edmonton, AB)
  • Mid-Market: Ratana Stephens, Co-Founder and CEO (Retired), Nature’s Path Foods (Richmond, BC)
  • Growth: Chief Terry Paul, CEO, Membertou Development Corporation (Membertou, NS)
  • EmergingRebecca Kacaba, CEO and Co-Founder, DealMaker (Toronto, ON)
  • Non-Profit and Broader Public Sector: Jennifer Gillivan, President and CEO, IWK Foundation (Halifax, NS)
  • MacKay CEO Forums Social Purpose Innovator: Rob Miller, CEO and Co-Founder, Miller Titerle Law Corporation (Vancouver, BC)

Canada’s Most Admired™ CPCOs of 2023

  • Enterprise: Norm Sabapathy, Executive Vice President, People, Communications and Technology, Cadillac Fairview Corporation (Toronto, ON)
  • Mid-Market: Cheryl Kerrigan, Chief People Officer, BlueCat (Toronto, ON)
  • Growth: Christine Vigna, Chief People Officer, Dejero Labs Inc. (Waterloo, ON)
  • Emerging: Stephanie Silver, VP, People and Culture, North Strategic, Notch Video and MSL Group (Toronto, ON)
  • Non-Profit and Broader Public Sector: Shaun Simms, Chief People, Communications and Strategy Officer, Ottawa Community Housing (Ottawa, ON)

Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures of 2023 – Enterprise

  • AstraZeneca Canada (Mississauga, ON)
  • Bruce Power (Tiverton, ON)
  • Canadian Western Bank Financial Group (Edmonton, AB)
  • Celestica (Toronto, ON)
  • High Liner Foods (Lunenburg, NS)
  • Loblaw Companies Limited (Brampton, ON)
  • Maple Leaf Foods (Mississauga, ON)
  • Purolator (Mississauga, ON)
  • SAP Canada (Toronto, ON)
  • STEMCELL Technologies (Vancouver, BC)

Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures of 2023 – Mid-Market

  • Behaviour Interactive (Montreal, QC)
  • D2L Corporation (Kitchener, ON)
  • East Side Games (Vancouver, BC)
  • First West Credit Union (Langley, BC)
  • G Adventures (Toronto, ON)
  • Interac Corp (Toronto, ON)
  • Massilly North America Inc. (Brantford, ON)
  • Monos (North Vancouver, BC)
  • Odlum Brown Limited (Vancouver, BC)
  • Rümi Powered by ATCO (Calgary, AB)

Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures of 2023 – Growth

  • Big Blue Bubble Inc. (London, ON)
  • Centra Windows (Langley, BC)
  • Det’on Cho Group of Companies (Yellowknife, NT)
  • East Coast Credit Union (Dartmouth, NS)
  • Hazelview Investments (Toronto, ON)
  • HomeStars (Toronto, ON)
  • Igloo Software (Kitchener, ON)
  • Inline Group Inc. (Edmonton, AB)
  • Loopio (Toronto, ON)
  • Xperigo (Markham, ON)

Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures of 2023 – Emerging 

  • Gestisoft Inc. (Montreal, QC)
  • Henderson Partners LLP (Oakville, ON)
  • Iversoft Solutions Inc. (Orleans, ON)
  • Kognitive Tech Inc. (Toronto, ON)
  • Kudos® (Calgary, AB)
  • Numinus Wellness (Vancouver, BC)
  • Pagefreezer (Vancouver, BC)
  • PurposeMed (Calgary, AB)
  • SureCall (Calgary, AB)
  • The Poirier Group (Toronto, ON)

Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures of 2023 – Non-Profit and Broader Public Sector

  • BCAA (Burnaby, BC)
  • Canuck Place Children’s Hospice (Vancouver, BC)
  • Creative Options Regina (Regina, SK)
  • Egg Farmers of Canada (Ottawa, ON)
  • Kids Help Phone (Toronto, ON)
  • NorQuest College (Edmonton, AB)
  • Ottawa Community Housing (Ottawa, ON)
  • Scarborough Health Network (Scarborough, ON)
  • Standards Council of Canada (Ottawa, ON)
  • Vancouver Airport Authority (Richmond, BC)

Awards Celebration

The Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures™, Canada’s Most Admired CEO™, and Canada’s Most Admired CPCO™ awards will be presented at an awards celebration in Toronto on Thursday, April 18, 2024.

For more information, visit: