Work and life lessons in the kitchen
Sergio Ro quietly chops vegetables, preparing a lunch time meal at Friends Catering, a social enterprise run out of Fred Victor and supported by United Way. This simple task is filled with meaning for Sergio.
“At first when I was learning to cut potatoes the same size, I would stress over it, because each time I would get it wrong,” says Sergio. “But then Chef would fix it. And it helped me see that there’s always a path back, no matter where you are in life.”
It is the type of lesson that is Friends’ reason for being. Supported by United Way’s Toronto Enterprise Fund, Friends is helping individuals who are living under the poverty line and facing challenges entering the job market to access new work opportunities.
“For some people, they’re newcomers and it’s their first job in the country,” says Monica Schroeder, Fred Victor Resource Developer for Friends Catering. “For some people, they may have been experiencing issues of mental illness or addiction or other health issues and that’s created a barrier for them.”
For Sergio, working at Friends Catering was critical for instilling a sense of responsibility and breaking a cycle of depression that had left him without motivation or a sense of purpose.
“I was so depressed that I saw no need to get up or to have a goal in life. But working at Friends Catering feels good because we’re a really small staff and we rely on each other,” says Sergio. “It feels good to be needed, so I have a reason to get up. And through that, it got the momentum going to keep trying to move ahead.”
That momentum helped Sergio decide to return to his studies and apply to university. He’ll be heading to the University of Toronto this fall. He credits his experience at Friends for the turnaround.
“Before, I thought I could never go back to school,” says Sergio. “It’s working in the kitchen that helped me realize that you have to work hard to achieve results.”