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CFN & International Volunteer Day 2020: Ralph Zackheim

After a successful career in the non-profit, private and government sectors and a few years into retirement, Ralph Zackheim was looking for the opportunity where he could dedicate his time to helping.

His first connection with the Centre for Newcomers (CFN) was through the organization of the End of the Rainbow Foundation which was part of the Calgary Rainbow Railroad station initiative which supported LGBTQ+ refugees and immigrants. CFN was instrumental in providing support and organizing activities with the Calgary Rainbow Railroad station and it was through participation in this initiative that he became aware of the volunteer opportunities with the CFN. Not long after he joined the Volunteer Team at the Centre for Newcomers.

Ralph’s extensive experience in the social service sector includes working with immigrants, homeless job seekers, and a program which trained low-income women for non-traditional occupations. Thus, volunteering within the Vulnerable Populations program is a good fit as he can draw on his extensive background and skills to assist newcomers in their new lives in Calgary.

As a volunteer, Ralph’s approach is to help people discover and make use of the assets they already have. In a new country, a new culture and here in Calgary, a new climate, these personal assets people have may be hidden or less recognizable due to the extreme differences in situations they have to learn to navigate immediately upon arrival.

When working with clients, Ralph doesn’t focus on the “barriers” as this emphasizes “deficits”. Instead he focusses on the transferable skills that individuals possess, but often do not even realize. He has been successful in his volunteer role as he believes that simply being present and listening is just as or even more valuable than providing advice.

Ralph believes strongly in the valuable services that CFN provides to the diverse group of new arrivals to the city. We thank you, Ralph, for being a member of our Volunteer Team and helping us deliver these services to make Calgary a welcoming place for all.


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