When his dad was diagnosed with cancer, it was Stanislav Rajic who had to break the news to his parents in Croatian, who then helped them navigate the medical system in this new country.
Originally from Bosnia, his family arrived in Canada in 1998, after living for years as refugees in Croatia. Stanislav was 23, and quickly became the most fluent English speaker in his family
As a result of his journey, he understands the challenges of being in a new country where you don’t know the common language and he has spent the last two decades helping build bridges between immigrants and Canadian-born Londoners, often working with people living in poverty.
“I was always drawn to social services and community work and neighbourhood work,” says Stanislav, who is Community Outreach Co-ordinator at Crouch Neighbourhood Resource Centre.
Although he arrived as a licensed electrician, his certification was not recognized in Ontario. But that was ok with Stanislav, who had spent years working as a support worker in a Croatian refugee camp and felt compelled to continue helping others in need of social support.
Stanislav says for many newcomers, the biggest challenge is feeling like they don’t belong. He recalls the first time he felt like he belonged in London.
“After a few months here, somebody saw me on the street and called me by name. That recognition, being recognized gave me a sense of belonging.”
His first job in London was working with newcomers through LUSO Services, then on Hamilton Road. He has also worked for the city of London, Child and Youth Network and now as Community Outreach Co-ordinator at Crouch Neighbourhood Resource Centre.
Behind the scenes, Stanislav volunteers with community organizations and helped launch North East Community Conversations with Jacqueline Fraser.
One of the first events they held was a workshop that had participants to complete a simple task. There were two groups. Both were English speakers, but one group received instructions in another language. “We wanted to help people understand that feeling of powerlessness many newcomers feel when they don’t speak the language and they are trying to interact with the system,” says Stanislav.
“Real engagement is not just to participate, but to be involved in the development,” says Stanislav.
He says his work has given him not only a sense of purpose, but a sense of belonging in Canada.