Months of hard work leading to new careers for graduates at the Ottawa Mission’s Food Services Program.

The Ottawa Mission celebrated the first graduation of its Food Services Training Program for students trained exclusively at 'Chef Ric’s', the shelter’s new social enterprise on Rideau Street.

Thirteen students graduated at an in-person ceremony held Thursday; and, even on graduating day, 11 students have already secured positions in the food service industry.

"I’m really proud of myself, and I’m really thankful," Forough AliKarami, a graduate of the program told CTV News Ottawa.

"I really have a passion for cooking. I love cooking, working in the culinary services."

AliKarami is originally from Iran; and, arrived in Canada in July 2021. She began volunteering in the Ottawa Mission’s kitchen shortly after. 

She says working in the kitchen helped her prepare for the FSTP.   

The training programming taught her the skills needed to work in that industry, and she’s already found employment at Caravela’s Restaurant in Orleans.

"It really helped me to build my skills; and to, help me to gain the power that I needed to work full time in a restaurant."

The graduation ceremony was dedicated to one of the thirteen graduating students, Rachel Hauraney, a student that passed away unexpectedly earlier this month. Her parents accepted the graduating certificate.

The four-month training program launched in 2004, changing many lives since.

"Some of them come to us and absolutely have nothing; and then they leave, they have a job, and we help them — it’s a wrap around program, so we help them in many ways, if they need help with housing. So their whole life has changed. You know, it's like a new beginning for them," said Director of Food Services Ric Allen-Watson. "It’s amazing, we’ve had think, it's almost 250 graduates since we started the program with a 90 per cent success rate; success meaning that at graduation, they're actually employed. It's such a rewarding experience."

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