Paramount Fine Foods CEO Mohamad Fakih.

Photo courtesy: Candace May Photography

Rye Lifeline Syria partners with Paramount Fine Foods

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By Alanna Rizza

Middle Eastern food company Paramount Fine Foods and Ryerson University’s Lifeline Syria Challenge (RULSC) are working together to employ 100 Syrian refugees with the help of Magnet, a job-matching system co-founded by Ryerson.

Paramount CEO Mohamad Fakih said his company will be providing three to five positions in each of its locations for refugees who need jobs. He said hiring 100 refugees is the initial goal but that as more stores open, he will continue hiring more refugees. There are currently 32 locations.

“Jumping in and starting to help these refugees is [exactly] what people did for me when I immigrated to Canada,” said Fakih, who came to Canada from Lebanon about 17 years ago.

“The [refugees] are here, and now we have two options; step up to the plate and help them out or we’re all going to find out one day that these people needed our help and we were not there.”

Lifeline Syria is a Toronto initiative that began in July 2015 — Ryerson started their own challenge shortly afterwards.

Wendy Cukier, executive lead of Ryerson’s Lifeline Syria, said the top three priorities for the newly-settled refugees are language training, finding them a place to live and employment.

“The partnership with Paramount is an example of how people and organizations from across sectors are stepping up to help with the Syrian Refugee crisis,” Cukier said.

Mark Patterson, executive director of Magnet, said that the discussion of working with RULSC started in the fall of 2015, but the initiative got started when Fakih reached out to RULSC in mid-March.

He said that Magnet is assisting various employment agencies by providing  them with a technology platform to hire refugees and that they have already started assisting 50 refugees.

“It’s hard enough to find a job [for] somebody who’s born and raised here who has networks and friends but if you’re a refugee who’s lost everything … it takes a whole group of organizations and different groups to come together to help address some of these challenges,” Patterson said.

“This will be a great boost to the nearly 100 families RULSC is sponsoring as well as other newcomers supported by Lifeline Syria,” said Cukier.

Fakih said it’s the duty of Canadians to help refugees and that he challenges every entrepreneur to do the same.

“The solution to the bigger problem starts with finding them a job. When they start actually earning some money, this is where their life [starts] going back to normal.”

With files from Keith Capstick

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