#OneEastToronto shares the faces of East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP), a group of more than 100 community, primary care, home care, hospital and social services organizations in East Toronto working together with community members to better connect local care and services.
In this special edition of #OneEastToronto, we’re sharing the stories of the people who play an important role in ensuring community health ambassadors have the tools they need to connect local residents with health, social and community services.
Meet Ishrat Jahan, Outreach Worker at TNO – The Neighbourhood Organization.
“Growing up, I had a love for learning and building meaningful connections. This led me to pursue a master’s degree in Social Science. When I graduated, I decided to help my family run our information technology (IT) business in Bangladesh. Later, I had the chance to visit my older sister in Canada. I decided I wanted to follow in her footsteps and start my own life there.
In 2016, after visiting my sister twice, I finally made the decision to move. When I first arrived I was excited. I immediately applied for a work permit and enrolled in English Second Language (ESL) classes at a local school to improve my language skills. I was very lucky because I received my work permit two months after I applied. With my work permit in hand, I began applying for jobs while continuing to attend ESL classes.
The first job I got was as a team lead on the production team for a non-profit organization. This job taught me many skills such as how to work with a team, quality control and customer service. I loved my job but felt as though something in my life was missing. That’s when I realized I was lacking the opportunity to learn about those around me. To fill that missing piece, I applied to become a volunteer in my community, Thorncliffe Park. My first volunteer role was at TNO – The Neighbourhood Organization, where I ended up staying because they had several opportunities for me.
One of my early memories of volunteering was working with a women’s group to build their fashion design skills. This gave us all the chance to get together as a small community to create things for our friends and families. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, we started making masks at home to donate to nearby organizations.
From there, my volunteer work quickly shifted to focus on COVID-19 outreach. This gave me the chance to interact with a diverse range of community members about topics such as the COVID-19 vaccine. This work was important because, when vaccines were first announced, not everyone in the community was comfortable with them. Our team provided resources and education so people so could make informed decisions.
Another big part of this work involved supporting ETHP’s COVID-19 Immunization Clinic at East York Town Centre. As a community health ambassador lead, I made sure we had enough community health ambassadors to help the large volumes of people visiting the clinic on a daily basis. We provided directions, answered questions and helped with other needs on-site.
For example, there was one time an elderly person visited the clinic and there was a language barrier between this person and the healthcare provider giving the vaccine. Because I speak and understand three different languages, I was able to translate the conversation between the two. In cases like this, we need to be compassionate and understanding because not everyone is able to bring a loved one or caregiver with them.
I see the impact of my work in the community every day through the conversations I have with friends, neighbours and even strangers. It warms my heart to know that I’ve played a part in making our community stronger, more connected and resilient.”
Get to know Ishrat more through a quick Q&A!
- Coffee or tea? Coffee, it gives me an extra boost of energy.
- What’s been your favourite travel experience? I’ve been to a few countries! In 2005, I went to Japan for a month to complete a Business Innovation for Information Technology course which was an incredible experience that gave me the opportunity to learn and make new friends.
- What’s an activity that you enjoy? My favourite sport is badminton. I received a few medals when I played in university.
- If you could be one animal, what would it be? I would love to be a butterfly! They can go anywhere and have so much freedom.