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KCR: Sharing time to build community

These columns are contributed by the KCR Community Resources

As a newcomer to Canada herself, Nithasha Prem Kumar understands some of the hurdles faced by immigrants to Kelowna and commits her time and energy to share her knowledge and experience by volunteering both with the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission and KCR Community Resources to support Newcomers. As a KCR Employment Mentor Nithasha meets with participants to help them connect to meaningful work opportunities and focuses specifically on helping internationally trained newcomers connect to professional work opportunities.

“I went through this myself and we are all learning together,” explains Nithasha, who has a Masters Degree in Education and currently works as a Technical Assistant in the Maker’s Space at Okanagan Regional Library. “When I came I had to go through the process of applying for visas alone – I went from a student visa to work and now Permanent Resident applications and so I can share what I have learned.”

Originally from a small town in Kerala, India’s southern-most state, Nithasha was looking to study in Canada and was looking to apply to UBC’s Vancouver campus but the program intake had already closed and then she found the information on the Okanagan campus and decided to try for it.

“I like to say that I didn’t choose Kelowna, but that Kelowna chose me,” laughs Nithasha, whose positive energy and drive help to make a perfect mentor for others. Employment Mentors specifically help with resume review and interview skills practice, enhanced understanding of Canadian workplace culture, information on knowledge of best practices and industry information, information on how to build professional networks locally and overall encouragement. Her ability to speak five languages (and working on French, her sixth) also helps!

Nithasha’s dream goal for volunteering is to help as many people as she can, through different avenues. In addition to her roles with KCR and COEDC, she has also volunteered with New Vintage Theatre and Kelowna Gospel Mission. Her parents fostered the volunteering spirit in her from childhood and she has been active through her teenage years working with different organizations that focus on empowering women, economic development and community clean ups.

“Volunteering gives me an opportunity to gain an understanding of how the world looks through someone else’s eyes/experiences,” she says. “These perspectives enrich my life and there is nothing more fulfilling than being able to share your own knowledge to someone else who could use it for bettering their life.”

Volunteering has also taught Nithasha that “fundamentally most people are good within and usually it is our situations that make how we behave sometimes.”

“It feels a very meaningful way to spend time and I like to be a part of a whole drive to make change,” reflects Nithasha. She also sees her volunteerism in Canada as a way to build community. “We really live like a community in the East – if your neighbor doesn’t have something we really share. I don’t know my neighbors here in the West. It is very different, and I am still trying to understand the more individualistic society here. As a volunteer it really gives me a sense of community.” If Nithasha’s story has inspired you, check out ways that you can volunteer at or, an engaging platform that centers you the volunteer, allowing you to find the perfect opportunity to share your skills and time.

National Volunteer Appreciation Week is April 16-22 with the theme “Volunteering Weaves Us Together”. Make sure you thank the volunteers in your life and maybe reflect a little on how much stronger our social fabric is because of the volunteers that weave us together.

Dorothee Birker is the communications and development coordinator for KCR Community Resources. If you are interested in sharing your volunteer or organizational news, please contact Dorothee at

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