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JBS Corner

Team Member Spotlights

Adbirahman Jama Issa, Lead Hand, Case Sealer

Abdulie originally came to Brooks because he wanted to work and save some money before moving to Montreal. While he already speaks six languages, he says he planned to go to Montreal to learn French and experience the culture.

However, nearly 19 years later, he continues to be an important member of the JBS team.

Since he started his career at JBS in palletizing in the Material Handling Department, Abdulie has had the opportunity to learn the roles on the receiving dock, in the box shop, material handling and the case sealer.

In 2011 he became Lead Hand in the Box Shop and Case Sealer. “The box shop supplies the boxes to the packaging department. Once the boxes are filled, they come to the case sealer. If there are any delays getting the boxes to packaging or a delay in the case sealer, the whole sys-tem gets backed up,” he says. Abdulie’s role is instrumental to ensuring the operation runs smoothly each day.

Abdulie was born and raised in Somalia but fled to Ethiopia when the Civil War broke out in 1991. He lived there for about two years before moving to Italy where he lived for another couple of years. He was living in Switzerland when he was given the opportunity to move to Canada in 1995.

With ambitions to become a Producer, Abdulie attended Motion Picture school in Victoria, British Columbia, for a short time. After discovering that the cost of living in Victoria and Vancouver was too high, he decided to move to Calgary, which is where he heard about employment opportunities in a place called Brooks.

On January 4, 1999, Abdulie began working at what was then called IBP. “I stay because I like the people,” he says. “You get all kinds of people, it’s a good balance.”

Abdulie’s wife, Sahra, also works at JBS in the cooler on B-shift. The couple met when Abdulie visited Africa in 2005. They were married in 2008 and in 2010 Sahra came to join him in Canada.

While Abdulie works during the day and Sahra works in the evenings, they share time with their three children who are 6, 4, and 1.5-years-old.

They enjoy time on the weekends when they go to the park, swimming at the JBS Canada Centre, or ride their bikes.

Abdulie is also in the process of getting his fourth-class Boiler Operator ticket. He has completed the schooling, and is now working on getting his steam time while working.

CherryLou Evangelista, Lead Hand, Harvest Floor

CherryLou Evangelista arrived to Canada in 2010, three years after her husband was recruited to join the team at what was then called XL Foods. Three months after arriving to Brooks with her two daughters, CherryLou secured a job on the Fabrication floor at the facility as well. Though she left JBS for about a year, she decided to apply again, which was when she was hired to the Harvest floor.

“After I left, I realized how good it is to work here,” she says about JBS. “The people are treated right and the management recognizes those who work hard.”

In only six months following her return, CherryLou was promoted to Lead Hand on the Harvest Floor. “I like to learn as much as I can. Even when I’m not asked to, I like to try each role so that I know what it takes to do the job—even if it’s a job typically for men, I will try it,” she says with a smile.

CherryLou’s husband, Emmanuel, celebrated his ten year anniversary in Canada this year and continues to work at JBS as a shag driver.

He and their daughters, Grace and Glizel, became Canadian citizens in March 2016, an accomplishment they are very proud of. CherryLou is also working towards citizenship and hopes to apply early next year.

The Evangelista family loves living in Brooks. It is much different from their previous home in the Bulacan province, Philippines, where CherryLou says it is very hard to find employment.

“I was sad to leave our families and friends in the Philippines,” she admits. “But when I was hired at JBS, it was my first job ever, and I was so happy to be able to help our family. One year later we bought our house in Brooks.” And now, CherryLou’s daughter, Grace, has aspirations to become a veterinarian after she graduates.

CherryLou and her family are very active with the Victory Church in Brooks and enjoy volunteering every second Sunday to drive the bus that picks kids up for the Super Church for Kids youth group.

Dean Ferrigan, Shipping Superintendent

When Dean Ferrigan hopped on the Greyhound bus 18 years ago to make the 40-hour journey from Sioux St. Marie, Ontario to Brooks, Alberta he had $20 in his pocket and one backpack full of clothes.

Upon arriving to Brooks and finding his way to what was then called IBP, he briefly wondered what he had gotten himself into. “At that time, I came to live in the ATCO trailers that were located at the facility,” Dean says. “When I arrived on Sunday, I didn't have anything, and I will admit that a flash of doubt crossed my mind.”

Dean first heard of the opportunity at the facility in Brooks, Alberta, from a job fair in Sioux St. Marie, where he grew up. “I was unemployed at the time and the presentation that they gave at the job fair interested me, it sounded like a good opportunity.”

On the Monday morning in March, 1999 that Dean began his role on the Fabrication floor, the doubt was replaced by excitement. “I started with about 30 other people from all over Canada. We were all excited to start working.”

In only six months, Dean was promoted to Lead Hand on the Break chain, Arm line and Strip line. In three years he became Supervisor, working in Cattle receiving and Rendering. Later he spent one year as General Foreman in Slaughter and four years as General Foreman on the Fabrication floor before entering his current role as Superintendent in Material Handling. “I think I am one of few people here who has worked in all areas—from where we receive the cattle to where we put the boxed beef on trucks for shipment,” he says.

Though he admits that every area has its challenges, he feels that each role prepared him for the next, giving him knowledge and skills that are transferable.

“I built my career here,” Dean says. “We’re a team and I look forward to continually accepting new challenges.” Dean enjoys spending time with his two beautiful daugh-ters who are 14 and 4-years-old.

While living on an acreage out-side of the city, he raises chick-ens, sheep and a horse. He also spends much of his time play-ing or watching sports.

Shivanie Thakurdeen, Process Clerk

When Shivanie first came to Canada to visit family in Toronto she hoped that she would find a way to make her home here. “I had a very nice life in Guyana,” she says. “However, years ago the opportunities for young people were limited. There’s so much support for newcomers in Canada, especially for employment and even the opportunity to continue to go to school.”

In 1998, Shivanie married her husband, Dev, in a traditional Hindu ceremony in Winnipeg. After a brief time living in Regina, SK., they moved to Brooks. Shivanie began her career at JBS in Packaging on the Cow Line in June, 2000. “I grew up on a farm, my family raised cattle, but to see the whole process for the first time was amazing. It is interesting to see everybody working together safely,” she says. She spent some time as a Manifester and in 2008 she became the Clerk for Production. “I love to work with the Team Members and with the Supervisors and Management. I feel that I can support them, not only in the job, but also as someone they can come to if they need anything—advice, just to vent, or even to ask the difficult questions.”

Shivanie and her family became Canadian citizens just over 10 years ago. Shortly after, her parents Puran and Angie Goorcharan also came to Canada. Both of whom still work at JBS also. “Today, information is much more available to our Team Members,” Shivanie says. “Our successes and our challenges are being shared. The Supervisors are doing a great job to get to know their Team Members and I believe that it makes for a more inclusive environment.”

Shivanie says that her family life revolves around soccer. Her 10-year-old son plays in both the indoor and outdoor leagues. This past winter the family travelled all over the province while he competed in Rec league. Though her 14-year-old daughter doesn't play, she enjoys to read and support her brother at his games. “It is true that home is where the heart is,” she says. “Brooks is home. My family is here and I feel accepted.”

Shivanie also acts as the Vice-chair for the JBS 5S Committee, a role that is giving her the opportunity to travel to Brazil in May, along with two other colleagues from the committee. “The 5S program has really transformed the plant. We are now working with the Team Members, providing training and I believe we can see the changes. I am excited to see how the Team Members in Brazil are being motivated and hope to bring some ideas back here,” she says.

Narel Aurelio, Shift Superintendent

In May 2017, Narel will celebrate his tenth year in Canada. He was an employee of the Philippine Government before reading about the opportunity to work at, what was then called Lakeside Packers, now JBS Food Canada ULC (JBS), in the local newspaper. After a discussion with his wife, Emelcris, he decided to take the chance and submit his application. At the time Emelcris, hadn't really thought about moving to another country but she says the next thing she knew Narel was on his way to Canada.

On Victoria Day 2007 Narel arrived in Canada as a Temporary Foreign Worker and began his career at the facility in Brooks, Alberta as a Meat Cutter.

When Emelcris and their three daughters came to live with him in 2010 she says they were so excited. “Brooks is the only city that I would ever live in,” says Emelcris. “It’s such a caring community, it feels like we’re part of a bigger family.”

After beginning his career as a Meat Cutter on the Fabrication floor ten years ago, Narel is now a Shift Superintendent on the Slaughter floor at JBS. Even after 10 years, he says he has never seriously thought of leaving JBS or Brooks because he feels a debt of gratitude. JBS was a gateway for his family to have hope. The company gave them the opportunity to build a better life and to give his daughters more options for a better future. He also says there are a lot of opportunities within the company that await those who have patience and perseverance.

Narel bought a house close to his daughters’ school so that he wouldn't have to be concerned about them walking alone. All three of the girls enjoy playing sports, especially basketball. Beginning in 2010 Narel organized a basketball league for the Philippine community in Brooks. Eventually people from other immigrant groups and even neighboring cities began to join the league.

Emelcris is very involved in the community as a Newcomer Integration Worker at SPEC Association for Children and Families. She is also an English as a Second Language Teacher at Brooks Community Adult Learning Council where she says about 90% of her students are also Team Members at JBS. “You cannot find another company in Canada that gives people an opportunity like JBS does,” she says. “Even those without previous experience or education can grow and build a future with JBS.”

In 2015, Narel and his family became Canadian Citizens, an achievement that they are very proud of. When they returned to Canada from their first trip out of the country, Emelcris remembers how they were “welcomed home” by the Canada Border Service Agent. It was a very proud moment because they truly feel that Canada is home now.

Lyudmyla Makarova, Recruiting Supervisor

When Lyudmyla’s husband, Alex, first suggested that they immigrate to Canada from the Ukraine in 2006, she thought it was a crazy idea. However, after Alex completed the interview process with, what was then called Tyson Foods, now JBS Food Canada ULC (JBS), Lyudmyla recognized that moving to Canada would provide a better life for her family, especially for her two young sons.

In the Ukraine, Lyudmyla and Alex owned and operated a meat shop. Lyudmyla worked as an Accountant and Alex managed the shop. When Alex moved to Brooks, Alberta, Canada as a Temporary Foreign Worker in December 2006, they closed the meat shop.

In Brooks, Alex began working as a butcher on the Slaughter floor, he spoke no English. After only one-and-one-half years he had reached the CLB4 level in English and could then apply to the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program.

In 2008, Lyudmyla and her sons arrived in Canada. She began working at JBS March 2, 2009 in the Janitorial department. At about this same time, Alex was promoted to Lead Hand in Slaughter.

For three years Lyudmyla worked throughout the night and studied English during the day, while her sons attended school full-time. In 2010, the whole family received their Permanent Residency and by 2012, Lyudmyla had improved her English from level 0 to level 6 and applied for a role as Recruiting Clerk. She is now a Recruiting Supervisor for JBS.

Additionally, in 2011 Alex began working in the Maintenance department to pursue his Millwright apprenticeship, it is also when the family purchased their first home in Canada. “My whole family is so grateful. We have been given many opportunities by JBS and we love living in Brooks,” Lyudmyla says. “We feel that the town is so quiet and safe, we’ve built a great life here.”

In 2016 Alex received his Red Seal Millwright certificate and Lyudmyla’s eldest son, Vitaliy, also joined JBS as an Apprentice Electrician.

The family hope to become Citizens of Canada in 2017.

Lyudmyla and her family are indispensable members of the JBS Canada Team and we want to thank them for their dedication.

Ikram Ali, Waxline A-Shift

At 20 years old, when Ikram was separated from her family in a conflict, she found herself living in a refugee camp in East Africa. Though she left her mother and 11 brothers and sisters she maintained her strong resolve, saying that there was no certainty that if she went back to her home it would be the same. Instead, she decided to live on her own because going back might have been more dangerous. She made the choice to stay in the refugee camp until she was sponsored by the Government of Canada seven years later.

Ikram lived for a short time in Toronto when she first arrived in Canada in 2001. She made the move to Brooks when a friend who was living in the city suggested that she move to Alberta as well.

“Brooks is a very good place,” she says. “The children are safe here. In a big city you spend much more time getting to and from work, but here we are so close that you can spend so much more time with your children.” Ikram’s two children were both born in Brooks and attend school here, her 13-year-old son loves to play basketball.

The family is active in the Oromo community, they attend the mosque, community meetings, and BBQs with friends. “There is a lot of support here. We often get together with friends and the children can play,” Ikram says. “Canada is freedom. Nobody touches you. You can go to work, make money, get health care, raise your children. It is safe.”

When Ikram first began her career at JBS she worked on the arm line. After three years she moved to the waxline. Today, she completes all types of work on the waxline and in the ground beef area, even clean-up when it is needed. “I believe that it is important to have a good relationship with the people you work with, with your Supervisors and Superintendents. If they ask me to do something, I never say that it is not my job, I just do it.”

The waxline is an area of the ground beef department where the large containers of combo are stored. These large containers weigh in excess of 790 kilos when full. Ikram’s main responsibility in this area is to package a portion of the combo into smaller 60-lb boxes that are then stored in the blast freezer before being shipped to customers. “Ikram is always willing to go above and beyond,” Superintendent Deanne Marshall says. “She is very well cross-trained on multiple jobs in waxline and ground beef. When the lead hand is on vacation she’ll often step in and manage the waxline area.”

Ikram says that JBS allows opportunity for anyone to have a good job and make a living for themselves and their families. “This is a good job, it’s a good company. Every day everyone is working together, everyone is friendly.”

Darlene Hewitt, Sales Customer Service Representative

For Darlene, family is everything. She is the proud Grandmother of 6 and says her life revolves around her grandchildren - and she is lucky because she gets to see them nearly every day. “They are my biggest accomplishment in life. Between babysitting, Friday sleep-overs, Duffy’s Fun Centre, birthdays, hockey, tae-kwon-do and gymnastics, our lives are pretty much built around them,” she says of herself and her husband Moe.

When Darlene is not with her grandchildren, she works as a Sales Customer Service Representative at JBS where she gets to fulfill her other passion, speaking with people. “I’m a people person,” she says. “I love to make sure our customers are happy. We’re pretty determined here, when a customer needs something we make sure we leave no stone unturned.” Since 2011, when Darlene joined the Sales team as a Clerk, she says they have built a strong team. “I work with the best people, they’re like my other family.”

Darlene has had the opportunity to work in other teams throughout the facility as well. From 2006, she was the B-Shift Supervisor in the Cafeteria where she said she loved the job because she got to speak one-on-one with people. In 2009, after the owners of the cafeteria closed, she joined what was then called XL Foods as the Loading Coordinator in Material Handling. “It was a heavy work load,” she says. However, never one to give up on a challenge, Darlene worked for three years in Material Handling until, in 2011 after her third grandchild was born, she decided that she needed to make a change.

“I wanted to have more time to spend with them, but I also wanted to be the Grandma who could spoil her Grandkids, when I saw an opening for a Clerk on the Sales team, I thought it would be a good balance.” So she joined the Sales team in 2011 and hasn't looked back. “Coming from Material Handling, I worked with the Sales team a lot. But this gave me a new perspective on the challenges and opportunities when working with customers,” she says. “I like to see things through, I’m not a quitter and I’ve built some great relationships. I’ve even come to know my customers by voice now.”

Darlene and Moe came to Alberta in 2005 and 2004 respectively, from a community of about 100 homes in Newfoundland. She says sometimes she misses the smell of that fresh ocean air, the waves crashing right outside her window and of course, the seafood. “When Moe and I go home this summer, we will probably mail our clothes back so we can bring coolers of seafood home with us instead!”

However, she said she loves living in Alberta because she is so close to her four children and their children and she has her family here at work. “I am very proud to work for JBS,” she says. “I believe that everyone has opportunity here, it is up to them to find it.” In fact, she speaks so passionately about the company that Moe joined JBS as a member of the Building Maintenance Team two years ago as well.

Casimir Makabuza, Walking Shop Steward, UFCW Local 401

Prior to 1994, Casimir Makabuza was a Catholic Deacon and a teacher of Philosophy, Latin, French and Sociology in Rwanda, Congo and Burundi.

However when he landed in Moscow on his journey home from his vacation in Zurich, Switzerland in 1994, the authorities stripped him of his passport and visas, informing him that he could no longer travel. It was at this time that the majority Government in his home country, Rwanda, began to murder their own people in what marked the beginning of the Rwandan Genocide.

Due to the war, Casimir remained trapped for many months in the airport. He only learned of the news in his country from other travellers who passed through the airport. He did not know if his wife and two small children were safe, or even if they were alive.

At that time, Casimir was not the only person displaced by the war, trapped in the airport. One day he witnessed a murder of another refugee by the police. Upon writing a letter to the newspaper about the event, he gained the attention of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. When the High Commissioner learned that Casimir had many connections with Canadian families from his time teaching, the Canadian Embassy was contacted, which later helped Casimir make contact with these families. After six months living in the airport in Moscow, he was sponsored by the Catholic Church to move to Canada.

“When I arrived in Canada I felt stranded. I didn’t know where my family was. I spent two years searching for them,” he says.

A journalist from CBC Radio Canada helped in his search. However for two years Casimir couldn’t find any information about his family.

Until one day, the Saint Franciscan Sisters in Montreal suggested that Casimir join them in watching a documentary that they had recorded on VHS about the Genocide in Rwanda.

To his disbelief, Casimir recognized his wife in the documentary! He discovered that she had been working for Doctors Without Borders after the war. He was able to make contact with is family and six months later, they were reunited in Quebec.

Casimir spent eight years in Montreal. While there, he went back to University and completed a degree in International Relations and in International Law. Afterwards, the family moved to Alberta seeking an opportunity for Casimir to teach in Edmonton. When he did not find success in his search, he decided to apply for a job at what was then called Tyson Foods in Brooks.

“I started working as a rover on the Harvest Floor in 2002. Upon moving to Brooks I was approached by the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Calgary because of my background in Philosophy and Theology. He offered me a role as Reverend in the St. Albans Anglican Church in Brooks.” A position that Casimir holds to this day. He also volunteered and held a position on the Board of Directors for the Global Immigration Centre in Brooks and additionally taught French for three years.

Casimir became Shop Steward for the Union in 2008 and enjoys the role because he has had the opportunity to learn all areas of the facility, meet many people from different cultures and build relationships and partnerships within the business. “I like working here,” he says. “It has become like a second family.”

Today, Casimir’s daughter attends University in Ottawa to become a nurse, his son lives in nearby Lethbridge and his wife has pursued a career back in Rwanda.

Montazar Al-Kefaae & Meena Al-Jaafari

When his father fled persecution in Iraq because of his unofficial involvement with the Arab Writers Union and his outspoken criticism of the Saddam regime, a 3-year-old Montazar Al-Kefaae didn’t imagine that he wouldn’t see him again for 27 years.

Years later, upon turning 18, Montazar studied and worked as a graphic designer in Jordan and Iraq, he also took the time to study Journalism in Lebanon before he began a Nursing degree in Iraq. “I had to complete my degree to avoid conscription into the army,” he says. “However I learned that nursing is not my passion. So when the Mayor of my town approached me to be the Editor for the provincial magazine and newspaper, I jumped at the opportunity.” Montazar worked as Editor-in-Chief for two years until, one day, he discovered a warning left in his desk drawer—a bullet in an envelope. “That’s when I decided that it was time to quit,” he say

Montazar married Meena Al-Jaafari in 2013. Shortly after, in 2014, he immigrated to Canada under sponsorship from his Father. “I have travelled a lot. I have a brother who lives in Sweden, two sisters who live in the Unites States and one sister who lives in Ontario. I knew in my heart that Canada was the country that would fit me best,” he says.

After arriving in Toronto and looking for employment unsuccessfully, Montazar began a road trip across the country that would change his life. Montazar tells the story: “I knew a truck driver, so I caught a ride with him to look for work outside of the city. We went all the way to Calgary and were on our way back to Toronto with no success. We stopped at JBS but it was the end of the day so there wasn’t any availability for interviews that day. We went into town for something to eat, which is when we found the M&J Donair restaurant. I let the man behind me in line go ahead and we started talking, I told him my story and it turns out that it was the HR Director, who then made special arrangements for me to have an interview.”

Montazar began working at JBS on the production floor in 2015, however he was quickly promoted to machine operator working on the Meat Master. In October 2016 he became Lead Hand in the Ground Beef department. His wife, Meena, arrived in Canada in 2016 and also began working at JBS in the packaging department, she has since moved to a manifester role. With a certificate in microbiology and experience working in a laboratory setting, Meena hopes to eventually put her previous skills to work for the company.

The couple spends much of their time outside of work volunteering and helping in the community. Additionally, since moving to Canada, Montazar discovered that he enjoys drawing and painting, which he does frequently at home. He also teaches computer science courses at the Medicine Hat College Brooks Campus and performs freelance website and graphic design for companies in Brooks. Meena hopes to become a volunteer at the Brooks Medical Centre.