The Worker Community
The Romero workers live together in an intentional community of mutual care and support. They commit to: an inclusive practice of morning prayer rooted in an ecumenical expression of the Christian tradition, sharing regular meals together, a weekly community night, monthly community days, biweekly continuing education and spiritual formation and periodic group retreats. Each worker is matched with a mentor or spiritual director. Important note: Workers who start the program without culinary skills emerge as five star chefs.
I value the fact that my co-workers are not just co-workers, and that my housemates are not just housemates. Sharing life with the rest of the staff team helps to make each and every interaction that much richer and fuller.
– Joel, former worker
This full-time live-in volunteer program gives young people from all over the world the opportunity to live alongside refugees in a spirit of service and mutual care.
From Former Workers
“Being a worker is stepping into a role of meaningful responsibility. It is gratifying and fun. It is a chance to be part of a community that existed before you, and will continue after you. It is an opportunity to serve, make a difference, and to do something real. It is busy! In this world, giving without expecting to receive is not something everyone is able to do. Workers can dedicate themselves to work they believe in, without needing to measure time and energy.”
“Having studied philosophy, I had many theories about what it means to welcome the stranger and how to build a community. My theories and preconceptions were challenged at Romero House. I came to realize that ‘the stranger,’ is not that strange, that I can cook with a couple from Venezuela, teach piano to a girl from Turkey, talk about classic films with a man from Pakistan, and watch horror movies with a teenager from Colombia.”
“I’m particularly grateful for the practical experience and training offered through the worker program. I’ve been able to attend conferences, training workshops, and courses that I would never have been able to otherwise. I’ve valued them not only as opportunities to develop my understanding of the refugee settlement field, but also as an affirmation that Romero House is as genuinely committed to investing its workers as we are to the work we do here.”
Responsibilities of a Romero Worker
Companionship is at the heart of Romero House. Each worker accompanies one or two families throughout their immigration and settlement journey. Workers are not expected to be experts on the refugee process, but to walk alongside the refugees so they don’t need to navigate complicated systems alone.
Workers are responsible for running the many programs that animate our community life. These programs shift based on the gifts of the workers and the needs of the families. Common programs include weekly food hampers, women’s group, kid’s club, March break camp, garden coordination and the planning of many parties.
As each worker lives in one of our four houses alongside two or three families, they are given the great responsibility of facilitating a safe and welcoming home. This means running regular house meetings, ensuring mutual care-taking of the home and maintaining good relationships with the neighbours.
Administration + Communication
Being a worker is a great way to gain skills in running a non-profit. Each worker has various tasks may include volunteer coordination, communications, website maintenance, social media, fundraising, finance assistant, vehicle, bicycles and housing maintenance, donations coordination or managing the clothing boutique.
In addition to supporting the ten families living in our transitional housing, our Centre is busy with a lively walk-in program. The workers rotate intake shifts, providing information, referrals and settlement support to individuals and families at all stages in the refugee process.
Advocacy + Public Education
Living in solidarity with refugees means taking action where there are injustices in laws and systems. There lots of opportunities for advocacy and public education. It also means attending networking meetings with various advocacy groups, such as the Canadian Council for Refugees or the Ontario Coalition of Service Providers for Refugee Claimants.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there any eligibility criteria?
To be eligible for the worker program you must:
- Be over 19 years of age
- Have completed high school. Post-Secondary education / training is an asset.
- Demonstrate emotional maturity and good judgment.
- Be comfortable communicating in written and spoken English.
What are the qualities of an ideal worker?
We seek workers with some of the following qualities and perspectives:
- A commitment to social justice
- A desire to give oneself to others in a free and generous spirit
- A willingness to work and live in unfamiliar situations
- An interest in and excitement about learning from other
- A willingness to work hard with competence, care and independence
- An ability to take initiative and assume great responsibility
- A desire to live in a spirit of simplicity and solidarity, resisting the material inclinations of our culture
What is the program duration?
The full year program runs from September to August. The summer program runs from May to August. We ask that workers make a commitment for that whole period and do not consider other positions or programs that start before the expected end of their times as worker.
Do I need to be a Christian to Apply?
Workers of all faiths and traditions are welcome at Romero House. We simply ask that all workers commitment to participating in the rituals that root us while we engage in demanding work, primarily in the form of morning prayer and monthly liturgies. It is important to be fully present to this aspect of life together, even if it is something that is new and unfamiliar to workers. So we don’t want to downplay that aspect.
At at the same time, we encourage workers to share their own traditions and sense of spirituality in our morning prayer times — it makes our reflection richer. We have had workers who are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Agnostic and Atheist. We are not out to convert anyone or ask anyone to pretend they are something they are not. And we are have a very strict non-proselytization policy when it comes to interacting with Romero House residents.
How are workers compensated?
The worker program is a voluntary program. However, Romero House places great importance on making sure that a variety of young people are able to participated. Workers are supported in the following ways:
- A monthly stipend of $500
- Lodging and food
- Health and dental benefits, including subsidized counselling support
- A monthly transit pass + access to a bike
- Cell phone costs up to $50/month
- Transportation home on completion
- Personal retreat fund
- Plenty of free tickets to cultural and sporting events to attend with Romero House families
- Access to a personal mentor or spiritual director
Do I need to speak a second language?
It is not a requirement to speak a second language, however it is extremely useful. The most commonly spoken language after English is Spanish. Other useful languages include Arabic, French, Urdu, Tigrinya, Kurdish, Farsi and Amharic.
Do I need to have prior knowledge of the refugee system or social services?
Workers are not required to have prior knowledge of the Canadian immigration system or the social services available to refugees. There is extensive upfront and ongoing training and a bank of regularly updated resources to refer to. Workers will be well supported by the Director and others as they learn by doing.
Is living in a requirement?
Yes, this is a live-in program. It is a very important part of being a community together. And living together as neighbours to the refugee families is a core tenet of Romero House.
What kinds of careers do former workers end up in?
The sky is the limit! We have seen workers end up with some of the following commitments after their time at Romero House:
- Long term commitments to other communities (Catholic Worker, St. John the Compassionate, L’Arche …)
- Social Work or counselling
- Settlement Sector
- Legal profession
- Teaching or academia
- Government bureaucracy
- Health care or public health
- Non-profit work: management, fundraising, program coordination and evaluation, volunteer management
- International Development and peace building (ex. United Nations)
- Organic farming
- Financial sector (accounting etc.)
How can I support newcomers if I do not know Toronto?
Most of the workers who come to Romero House are new to Toronto — familiarity with the city and it’s services are not a requirement. It is fun to discover Toronto together with the Romero House families. Workers receive plenty of training and resources to help them get to know the city.
Can I apply for the summer and full-year program?
It is not encouraged to do the full year program immediately after the summer program — the end of the summer is very demanding for the summer workers. With that said, we are always open to considering different arrangements if they make / meet a present need. So feel free to check!