For many refugees and newcomers to Canada, finding work has proven a challenge. To help meet that need, Jeff Van Gyssel, a carpenter from New Hamburg, Ont., walked away from a good job at a successful construction company to begin Just Working Construction in April 2015.
Van Gyssel’s friend, a refugee from Eritrea, had been looking unsuccessfully for work in the trades for some time. “My friend was not the only newcomer to Canada who was very frustrated [about] employment,” said Van Gyssel. “Since I felt like owning my own business was a possibility, at the same time giving hope and a fair chance to some guys who wanted work in the trades, I thought I would try it out.”
Van Gyssel, a member of The Journey, a Christian Reformed church plant in Kitchener, Ont., continued, “I knew there were going to be added challenges trying to start a business and train newcomers at the same time but felt God was behind it.”
Challenges have arisen. Some employees have come and gone after deciding the work is too hard or for other reasons, language barriers can get in the way, and safety is sometimes an issue as things get lost in translation. In spite of the challenges, Van Gyssel is excited about the work. His hope is that “from people hearing about this we might find some help in training . . . to get as many newcomers trained properly and safely [as possible] and let them have a successful career in the trades here in Canada.”
He currently has four employees, including his brother-in-law Kenny Hoekstra, Dawit and Bisrat from Eritrea, and Mwana from the Congo. “Every one of these guys feels like a partner in the mission and for work.”