With participants from the Vietnamese program, Thuy Tran, the Vietnamese Counsellor and Program Coordinator, began a catering service here at The Lighthouse. Speaking with Thuy, a clear reason for initiating this service stems from her concerns about poverty, particularly for the recipients of the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), a specific kind of social welfare for people with disabilities.
Although ODSP provides secure long term financial assistance, for many families on ODSP, poverty is still a prevalent issue. As of the latest social assistance rates, a single parent with two children under the age of 18 can only receive a maximum $757 for the family’s basic needs. While ODSP provides a maximum of $816 for shelter, many families do not live in subsidized housing. The cost of rent alone can often exceed the maximum $816, thereby forcing families to draw from the basic needs allotment of $757, in order to provide adequate shelter for their families. And even with the supplementary Ontario Child Benefits, families continue to struggle for financial security. Thuy’s hope for the catering service is for it to develop into a full-fledged program providing an additional source of income for the participants without jeopardizing their social assistance.
Recently, the catering service cooked for the Chatham High School students, creating a wonderful cultural experience for over 30 students and teachers. As well, the catering service provided wonderful lunches for the staff and board both this year and last year’s Visioning Day. Last year, the catering service actually donated their earnings from the Chatham High School visit back to The Lighthouse, in support of the Vietnamese program
Two ladies, Vanessa* and Mindy* sat down with Thuy to talk about their experiences being part of this catering service.
How did you get involved in the catering service?
Mindy: Both Vanessa and I became part of the catering service through our involvement in the women’s support group.
Vanessa: Through this catering service, I learned how to do catering, increased my cooking experience, and my catering experience. I am also able to increase my income in order to buy groceries for my family.
Mindy: I am also able to increase the quality of my family’s meals.
What is your favourite part of being involved in the catering service?
Vanessa: When I am cooking with the catering service, I feel empowered because I am participating in something worthwhile. Since I am generating my own income, it reduces my stress about finances. As well, when I am prepping the food, I am able to be active and move around the kitchen. I also feel happy working with the other women, and when I see customers enjoying our food. As we cook, we are creating new friendships and support networks for one another.
Mindy: I am happy that with my own labour, I am able to generate a little income and contribute financially to my family.
What do you see in the future for the catering service?
Vanessa: I hope that the catering service can expand to have more women involved, so they can also share in our fun and joy, and provide more culturally diverse cuisine for our customers. I also hope that the catering service can be better publicized to the community, so through the program we can teach mothers, younger generations of Vietnamese born women about healthy cooking, and cultural foods. Ultimately, I wish that the catering service can provide consistent service to more customers, and to increase income for the women involved, as well as for The Lighthouse.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the client.