Throughout my life and career, I have looked for opportunities to positively impact social change. The question that has always been front of mind for me is: How can I help?
As an educational technologist by profession, I develop performance improvement strategies by fostering environments conducive to optimal learning, empowering people so that that they may contribute to the advancement of organizations, societies, and economies.
In a past mandate, I worked with a research and development team to identify and mitigate organizational practices that limit access to management positions for highly skilled immigrants, and consequently limit organizational growth and development. For the last decade I have been developing large-scale competency building strategies to meet the growing capacity demands in the aviation industry. Much of my work has been with thriving newly industrialized countries where I gain my clients’ trust by actively collaborating with them and promoting the co-creation of solutions adapted to their needs. I have worked with people all over the world and am able to quickly grasp cultural differences and issues in order to build strong and respectful business relationships.
And to me, that’s what it’s all about – relationships. So, when Basak described to me her passion project – The Supper Society – I was immediately inspired to collaborate with her and the team. Breaking bread together is the foundation of building a relationship, and I look forward to facilitating many mutually-beneficial, enduring and empowering relationships together.
I am an American attorney who has spent 16 years of my career working abroad in the multinational, non-profit sector. I now spend my time between Montreal and the United States. As I look back over my life, some of my fondest memories take place at the supper table with friends and strangers sharing our stories, a few good laughs and maybe some heavier moments. The challenges presented by moving to a foreign country are daunting and often overwhelming. It is easy to feel lost and alone, and while a supper invitation surely can’t ease all the stresses and hurdles a newcomer to a foreign country will face, it can lighten the burden, even if only for a few short hours. I can say with certainty that those suppers broadened my horizons and made my life so much more interesting; some led to lifelong friendships and others simply left me with great memories. All were worth the effort. When asked to join the founding board of The Supper Society, I was absolutely thrilled by the idea. Breaking bread at the table together is not only a universal tradition, but also a simple, beautiful gesture.
I know what it’s like to be an immigrant and a foreign resident. I was born under the Communist regime in Poland and at the age of 10, my parents decided to flee the country because there was no future for us there. First, we went to live in Tunisia, where I was exposed to a different culture, religion and language. At age of 15 I arrived as a landed immigrant to Montreal Canada, then at age of 25 I left Canada to live in Australia. I left Australia and went to the UK with my then husband, and I finally made it back to Canada 12 years go. Throughout my journey into new countries, I had to adapt to different environments, customs and languages. Very early on I found that quality human connections were key to adapt quickly and enjoy life in the new environment. Human connections were also a main driver in the creation of my business, SOSsitter / SOSgarde, a digital platform to connect families with local caregivers.
When the idea of Supper Society was presented to me, I felt an immediate attraction to it for several reasons. I know first-hand how it feels to be new in a foreign country with no established networks;I understand well the need to connect with local people on an equal level; I embrace the importance of making human connections; and let’s admit it, I like a good meal.
Originally from Ontario, I moved to Quebec for university and immediately fell in love with Montreal and all the different cultures I found here. Passionate about travel and connecting people through language, I studied Teaching English as a Second Language and currently serve as the Executive Director of the Quebec Association of Independent Schools (QAIS). Over the years, I have developed expertise in working with complex systems, improving performance, making connections and facilitating knowledge transfer.
For a time I lived and worked in Turkey and Taiwan, and I always appreciated the opportunities to share a meal with someone and learn more about local customs and culture. In fact, those moments provided me with comfort during some very difficult times. They also gave me a chance to develop a deeper understanding of the place I had chosen to live and work. The generosity of people and the welcoming invitations to break bread together inspired me to want to give back; the Supper Society is an important way for me to be able to do so.
I teach in the Sociology department at Dawson College and the Loyola College for Diversity and Sustainability at Concordia University. My research and teaching focuses on the sociology of food, environmental sociology, and international environmental politics and I am currently faculty coordinator for the Dawson rooftop gardens and the Principal Investigator for the SSHRC-funded partnership project on food justice and sustainability. As a newcomer to Quebec who settled with my kids here 15 years ago, I know and appreciate the difficulties and problems of adjusting to being both a worker and parent. I hope to bring some of my own experience and advice to those who may be navigating an exciting but also potentially challenging new journey.