Nadia Afrin never knew a customer loyalty program could be so rewarding.

The CCS executive assistant has a side hustle as a self-taught make-up artist with a reputation across the agency for being particularly skillful when it comes to beauty products and their application.

“When I was growing up, I couldn’t afford getting my makeup done because it was very expensive. For that reason, I’ve spent countless hours perfecting my makeup skills and now use it as a technique to de-stress,” Nadia said.

Nadia was approached this past June by Zohra Gillani, a program manager who runs the Settlement and Education Partnership (SEPT), a CCS initiative that provides individual case-based settlement counselling, referral services and group information sessions for immigrant students and their parents. One of the program offerings – the Summer Women’s Circle — is tailored specifically for newcomer women, with clients taking part in a five-week workshop featuring daily English conversation, settlement information and a focus on fitness with daily activities, such as Zumba and yoga. Zohra was aware of Nadia’s special talent around cosmetics and asked her to run a workshop on the art of applying make-up.

“It was my first time teaching a class to any group and I wasn’t too sure what to expect, but it was a fulfilling, exciting experience; I had been asked to do something like this before, but this one made perfect sense. I believe in our mission and I felt I was helping to make the clients’ lives just a little bit easier and fun,” Nadia said.

Nadia kick-started preparations for the workshop with a little help from Sephora, a French chain of personal care and beauty stores and L’Oréal, both leading brands in the industry.

“I wanted to keep the demonstration budget-friendly, so the majority of the brands I used were from the L’Oréal group, such as Maybelline and NYX. However, at the end of my workshop, I gave out Sephora products that I had earned through points to participants for answering questions correctly about my presentation. They were excited – everyone knows Sephora! The company has a “Beauty Insider” loyalty program, consisting of a three-tier point system where customers earn points based on purchases. At my loyalty level, I had saved up a lot of reward points and used them to redeem qualifying products and I had held onto them for a day like this,” she said.

So, armed with a battery of beauty supplies, Nadia went to work, running a 1.5 hour workshop for eleven attendees, including a methodical, step-by-step demonstration on the science of skin care and makeup, using easy-to-understand language. She provided the attendees with a PDF document to follow along with the basics of what she was demonstrating and made recommendations on products that could be bought at any drugstore. She walked the group through skin care preparation, how to apply foundation, concealer, blush, eyeliner, lipstick, and the necessary tools.

“It was so humbling to be part of their newcomer experience and share my expertise. My hope was for the attendees to learn something and apply it in their daily lives,” she said.

The clients’ sense of engagement was palpable throughout the workshop.

“Everybody was so into it, so friendly, making jokes, shouting questions and happy about how cheap the products were. They were asking, ‘Can I take pictures of this, where did you get that?’ For them to open up like that was so gratifying for me,” she said.

It goes without saying that when you feel good about yourself, great things can happen.

“Nobody thinks of settlement and makeup in the same breath, but makeup is not there to cover up your flaws, it’s there to enhance your beauty and build your self-esteem,” Nadia said.

Moving forward, Nadia would like to run another workshop, broadening the scope to have the clients bring in their own beauty products and then follow along with her in executing the various techniques.

The Settlement and Education Partnership initiative (SEPT). SEPT is a collaboration between Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), community agencies, the Toronto District School Board and Toronto Catholic Board, as well as the Toronto Public Library. CCS is the lead agency for SEPT in Scarborough with services in close to 200 schools.