Alma Latina held its Second “Networking Breakfast” this past Friday at the Pickering Central Library in Pickering. The morning brought together a small group of community members, Hispanic and non-hispanic, who came together to take advantage of the opportunity to connect with other members of the Durham Region community at large, but more importantly, to learn about service providers and the organization they represent. This morning we heard presentations from Victim Services Durham Region, as well as from CDCD (Community Development Council Durham) and its “Community Connections” program and also from the Hispanic Canadian Alliance of Ontario (AHCO), a volunteer-led organization representing Hispanics who live in Durham Region.

As we enjoyed some light refreshments, there was a lot of great and very useful information shared during the event. Just as we learned during our first networking event, there are a lot of services, many of them free for Durham Region residents, that are being provided for newcomers and for members of the community that a lot of people and even other organizations don’t know about or may not be aware of. It was very interesting— and in fact at the heart of why we are hoping this networking events grow in numbers and participation— to see the exchange of information and the realization that all these groups can work together to better serve the community. Chelsey Alderson from Victim Services Durham Region spoke about the excellent work they do in helping victms of domestic abuse, human trafficking, crime, tragedy, trauma in all times of crises. Similarly Alana Andrews and Katelin Grant from CDCD spoke to the group about the “Community Connections” program for newcomers, which includes summer picnics, a community kitchen and English Conversation groups all throughout Durham Region to assist newcomers in refining their English-speaking abilities. For its part the Hispanc Canadian Alliance’s representatives, Clara Rodríguez and Gilma Simón, gave a brief introduction to attendees about the excellent events they put together in order to bring the Hispanic community in the area together. These tireless efforts are all a labour of love for the volunteer members of AHCO’s Board of Directors.

As the event unfolded and each presenter got a chance to speak about their individual organization, there were a lot of questions from attendees and all the other presenters, as they realized that there was a lot of opportunity for crossover and for each organization’s clients and end-users to benefit from the services of the others. And this in itself is the essence of this sort of event: an opportunity to come together, as a unified front, to assist those who are in need of these services, have no access to them or even knowledge that these services and opportunities exist.

As an online publication, this is the reason behind Alma Latina’s desire to lead the conversation and open the door for other service providers and business owners (the latter for a nominal fee, as they are for-profit entities) to introduce what they do to the general public. It is our hope to keep this event free for participants and for organizations (like this Friday’s presenters) who provide free services for those who need them most. Living in Durham Region, and having attempted to connect and take advantage of networking opportunities, we have learned that they come at a price— a lot of the time a hefty price for a service that small businesses and startups like ours cannot afford or that come at a very prohibitive cost. We ourselves have been invited to so-called networking events where partnering with local organizations comes at a cost of thousands of dollars. In Durham Region about 80% of our businesses are small to medium size (less than 50 employees, a great majority of them less than 5 or 10 employees), and as we struggle to stay afloat, that means networking becomes a well-beyond-our-means endeavour. Thus, our effort to try to create guerrilla-marketing style opportunities and bring our diverse organizations together through our “Networking Breakfasts”.

Alma Latina is planning to have one Networking event at the beginning of October, to kick off the Ontario province-wide acclaimed “Hispanic Heritage Month” in October. This event will be in Spanish. We are hoping to have one more English event before the end of the year. Contact us if you’re interested in hosting a Networking Breakfast event (all we need is a room and a TV monitor, really, as we are making our best attempt to keep this event paper-free and 100% green) and/or of you’d like to make a short presentation of your services to the community. As for this one, we are hoping the connections that were made based on the very interesting, timely and extremely useful information that was shared to everyone who attended translates into better (and better known) services for our Durham Region community.