Kseniya's Strategy: Empathy and Compassion

We sat down with Kseniya on a Monday in Hamilton, just as the week was beginning. She playfully confesses that Mondays can be a bit difficult. Like the rest of us on the first of the week, she says her mind feels a little bit dispersed. What’s interesting, though, is that when we start talking about her job, her clients, and the experiences she has had with them, something incredible happens. Suddenly, her mind clears, and through her words, you can feel the passion and enthusiasm she has for what she does.


Kseniya is no ordinary counsellor; she is full of empathy, kindness, and compassion for her clients. As a settlement counsellor who primarily speaks Ukrainian, most of her clients are Ukranine – many of have fled conflict in their home country. “You don’t know where they’re coming from. Sometimes it’s from war, other times from abuse. It could be anything, and you just want to ensure that they are at least greeted warmly and positively, with some optimism, something to give them hope for the better, that things can settle well.”

Kseniya, IWC settlement counsellor, smiling to the camera

"You don't know where they're coming from. Sometimes it's from war, other times from abuse. It could be anything, and you just want to ensure that they are at least greeted warmly and positively, with some optimism, something to give them hope for the better, that things can settle well."

These are the words of true welcomer.  Her mission is to support newcomers on their path to settling in our city.  Her role includes a wide range of responsibilities, from providing guidance to supporting newcomers secure housing and access programs. However, what truly sets her apart is her natural ability to connect with her clients.


When it comes to working with them, it’s evident that Kseniya’s strategy is both simple and powerful: she actively listens, she asks questions, and she dives deep into their lives with an abundance of empathy and compassion, in order to understand their unique needs but mostly to help them feel welcome and hopeful about the steps they have taken now in Canada. She knows that even the smallest gestures can make an immeasurable difference.

“I had people who were just confused why they’re even here, because things weren’t going so well… then I will just ask questions like, what would need to happen for you to stay? What would make you feel more comfortable? What is the first thing that you think will eliminate the problem that is causing you to leave. And then we’ll go from there. If I see something we can work on, great! I’ll set up a little plan, not, like a big plan, but just small steps kind of plan and see if we can go with that. But if I see the person is really struggling, even with those tiny little steps, then I will ask for other options.”


She knows that she can only provide tools, and the rest is in the hands of her clients, but she highlights the importance of having a support network where information flows freely. That’s why she strives to be well informed source of knowledge and options for newcomers, ensuring that they have what they need to succeed.   


Kseniya’s dedication to support newcomers comes from her personal experience. When she arrived in Canada from Ukraine at the age of 17, she was embraced by the friendliness and positivity of her new community. Her experience of being immersed in a classroom full of students from different cultures had a profound impact on her. It’s an experience she’s determined to share with others. ” I wanted to give back what I’ve received when I came here. So, when you are now on the giving side, you want to be able to do so, welcome others with the same honesty and the same kind of positive emotions.”


The unwavering dedication of Kseniya in Hamilton exemplifies the essence of a true welcomer. She doesn’t just see clients; she sees unique individuals, each with their own struggles and stories. Her kindness and compassion provides more than just practical advice; they also give individuals a deep sense of belonging and hope, creating stronger connections within our diverse community.


Her work reminds us that small acts of kindness, such as a warm smile, a kind word, or a helping hand, have the extraordinary power to produce a domino effect in someone’s life, resulting in stronger and more welcoming communities.

This blog post is just one piece of our Welcoming Week series, where we aim to spotlight the incredible people, places, and values that create an inclusive and inviting environment in our communities. Together, let’s celebrate diversity, support newcomers, and continue building bridges that make Canada a truly welcoming home for all. Click here to read more incredible stories in the series. 

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