When Kamer Ali immigrated to Canada in 2004 from Ethiopia, she struggled with nearly every aspect of her new life.
Though she studied English in grade school, she still found it tough to communicate with people and form friendships. She found the cold debilitating. She didn't know how to use the transit system. She felt alone.
The toughest part, Ali said, was trying to find work. "I didn't know the most basic skills like how to write a resumé well, how to interview, even where to find work. I used to walk up and down the streets in the cold just looking for places that were hiring. It was a very, very scary time for me," Ali said.
Ali eventually found work as a housekeeper in a hotel. Although she was grateful for the pay, it wasn't fulfilling.
"I was looking for my dream job but as an immigrant who wasn't comfortable with Canadian life yet, I just didn't have the skills to get it," she said.
Three months ago, Ali found Opportunities For Employment, a not-for-profit service that helps Winnipeggers find work.
Ali heard about OFE from a friend, also an immigrant, who said it could help her meet people and find meaningful work.
"They teach you just things that, as someone from a different culture whose second language is English, I just didn't know. They taught me interview skills and how to build my resumé. The whole experience just gave me a lot more confidence and shows me that I deserve more -- and I have the ability to get it," Ali said.
Last year, the United Way donated more than $50,000 to Opportunities For Employment.
The financial support is just part of a larger initiative by United Way to create positive social change by building strong communities.
The support ensures that OFE can continue offering the programming that has benefitted Ali so greatly.
Though Ali has not yet found her dream job, she said she's confident it will happen soon.
"I get five to seven emails every day from (OFE) about new jobs that they have, but I'm being picky, she said.
"I can support myself for the time being until I can find my dream job. I'm holding out for it and I know now I can get it," she said.