Bota Bota x Petites-Mains
Each year, during the holiday season, Bota Bota employees volunteer a bit of their time towards several organisations.
Integration at heart
“Petites-Mains has been around for 27 years now,” says Sonia Frangeul, Executive Assistant to Petites-Mains since 2016. The tall building that houses several reintegration programs in Montreal stands upright and proud on Boulevard Saint-Laurent. Nahid Aboumansour and Sister Denise Arsenault are the ones that allowed it to be what it is today: a ray of hope for women newly arrived in Montreal.
“Petites-Mains is a springboard for entering the job market,” reveals Sonia. “We are especially recognized for industrial sewing because we offer socio-professional training in this field. But we also offer training in cooking, and office clerk. 95% of immigrant women are here.”
This need for integration, Ms. Aboumansour felt it as soon as she arrived in Quebec from Lebanon in 1989; she did not speak French and her architecture diplomas were not recognized locally. Today, thanks to Petites-Mains, she helps many women in the same situation as her. “We offer French courses, and even before helping them find a job, we help them understand Quebec society, its values and their rights.”
Independence as a common thread
“When these women start at Petites-Mains, most of them know nothing at all about industrial sewing. So, they go through different training stages.” Because it is a social economy business, these women learn by working on real orders; “We have acquired expertise and notoriety in industrial sewing. We are the ones who make the aprons for the SAQ advisers, the sweaters for the city of Montreal firefighters and many designers also call on us for the creation of our tote bags.“ Says Sonia.
Their journey at Petites-Mains allows these women to discover their strengths and weaknesses. “As soon as we assess where they feel best, we guide their integration process, and we help them find a job that will be adapted to their skills but above all that will allow them to flourish.“ Underlines Sonia.
“I think age is really a personal thing and you can feel very young at 60 and very old at 30.” Sonia tells me when I ask her if there is an age restriction to have access to Petites-Mains services. Although the entry criteria are quite flexible, it is important that these women can work and follow a work pace in a company. “We make sure that the person will be able to flourish in their work but also will be able to respond to the demands of an employer. So it’s really an adjustment and on a case-by-case basis.”
Taking charge of their well-being
On December 14th, 3 massage therapists and 2 members of the marketing team met on site to volunteer their time. The participants and some employees on site had the opportunity to benefit from chair massages, a moment to unwind.
Back pain, hand pain, they exchanged a few words with their massage therapists, who offered comfort with their caring hands. Every day the door would open, a sleepy face with undone hair would reveal itself, with a slight smile on their lips.
“For an immigrant, well-being is the idea of feeling like they belong, and that involves having a goal in life. Having a family is essential, but to be able to have a job, to have your own money to buy your own food, to no longer depend on a husband or a brother, that’s also very important.”
Sonia insists on the concept of community; “Having a network of friends is so essential. At Petites-Mains, they meet women from all over the world and develop friendships that will stay with them all their lives. This experience is so rich! Well-being is being somewhere we feel surrounded, loved and transmitting all these feeling to the people around us.”
A bright future ahead
Like the women it helps, the Petites-Mains building continues to grow and move towards new horizons. The café-caterer and reception under construction on the ground floor, promise a bright future for this place full of magic.
“It’s definitely a big project. We do it floor by floor, this building has so much potential! Before, the place was not particularly visible, people did not know that there was a café-caterer, but with the new design there will be large bay windows looking over at the park, it will be magnificent.” Construction should be completed in the spring of 2023.
At the dawn of a new year, Sonia does not hesitate to share her views for the future. “We can hope to continue to constantly renew ourselves so that we can always meet the needs of women so they can find their place and feel good in Quebec. »
“Live with dignity” remains the organization’s mission, and with it, many efforts are put in place daily to contribute to the creation of an ever more inclusive and harmonious society. “Unfortunately, there are still a lot of very harsh stereotypes and clichés about immigrants, which is very, very sad.” Sonia laments.
Yet she believes in a bright and promising perspective. The imprint of this organization goes far beyond the women who open its doors every day. “All these actions can also have an impact on their own children, who will be able to access this hope and this desire to contribute to society. It starts at Petites-Mains, but it continues in a thousand different ways. The impact is so great, that’s what’s beautiful.” Sonia finishes, her eyes filled with light.
To learn more about Petites-Mains, visit their website: www.petitesmains.com
Photos by Thibault Carron