United Way announces $31.5M in program spending

SEE VIDEO http://www.ottawasun.com/news/ottawa/2011/04/08/17920141.html

At 18, Rahel Gebremariam has already figured out what some adults spend a lifetime looking for — her purpose in the world.

With guidance from mentors at the Pathways to Education program, the West Ottawa student is on track to becoming a human rights lawyer.

“I took a world issues course, actually, last semester and that’s what got me interested in the human rights aspect,” said Gebremariam.

After attending tutoring sessions once or twice a week for the last four years, the Carleton University-bound student is wrapping up her final semester of high school and is excited about her future.

“I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer since I was young, so just figuring out like what type of lawyer I’d want to be was great,” she said.

“I know that might change when I go to university so just having a starting point is nice.”

Offering academic, social, financial, and advocacy assistance, the program helped Gebremariam focus on her career and awarded her a $4,000 scholarship.

Pathways to Education is one of many organizations supported by the United Way.

Now, the umbrella agency is investing $31.5 million into programs, services and initiatives in Ottawa in 2011.

That’s almost $2.9 million more than last year’s investment, said chair and Ottawa Sun publisher Rick Gibbons at a press conference Friday morning.

Last year’s record-breaking campaign raised $33.2 million, bringing the total revenue to $35.6 million.

The United Way helps fund hundreds of programs, such as LASI World Skills, which targets new immigrants.

“They do help provide newcomers with employment guidance, orientation, labour market information, employment counselling, but ultimately, also connecting the newcomers to jobs that are commensurate with their education and experience,” said LASI’s executive director Mengistab Tsegaye.

Less than one year after arriving from India, Soophia Ahmad is already a LASI success story.

“I had an employment counsellor there and one day he suggested that I apply to a language school that teaches English to federal government employees,” said Ahmad, who has a doctorate in English literature.

“I applied there in December and I got the job.”

Ahmad’s story is a perfect example of a return on investment.

“That’s what it’s all about, that’s what matters most, that someone’s life has improved because of what we’ve contributed,” said United Way Ottawa president & CEO Michael Allen.

kelly.roche@sunmedia.ca

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