A Waterloo Region tech executive has been recognized with one of Canada’s highest civilian honours for his work to help talented refugees find meaningful employment.

Omar Salaymeh, Chief Client and Product officer at Bonfire Interactive, has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (civil division) by the Governor General. The award honours Canadians for exceptional contributions to the country.

Salaymeh was recognized for his work with Jumpstart Refugee Talent, an initiative he co-founded in 2016 outside of his work at Bonfire, a Kitchener-based maker of strategic sourcing and procurement software.

After initially focusing on supporting Syrian newcomers to Toronto, Jumpstart has since expanded to serving refugees of all backgrounds across Canada. It helps them find work where they can best put their skills to use, rather than start at the bottom of the employment ladder, as so many skilled refugees do.

Everyone at Bonfire is so proud of Omar and what he’s been able to accomplish,” said Corry Flatt, CEO of Bonfire. “Omar’s initiatives with Jumpstart Refugee Talent have directly benefited Bonfire because it led to our involvement in Talent Beyond Boundaries – another great initiative that helped us find wonderful talent from Syria.”

In 2018, Salaymeh – himself a former refugee – connected Bonfire with Talent Beyond Boundaries, an agency that finds talented refugees around the world and helps place them in quality, high-demand jobs in safe countries. The connection led Bonfire to hire Mohammed Hakmi, a Syrian software developer profiled by Communitech News when he joined the company nearly two years ago.

“I’m honoured to receive this award and hope that it brings further recognition to the need to support refugees as they settle in their new home,” Salaymeh said of the Meritorious Service Medal. “Refugees are incredibly resilient individuals and that quality is immediately apparent in the workplace. I’d encourage anyone looking for highly skilled talent to reach out to Jumpstart Refugee Talent – hiring refugees is a true win-win situation as you’re supporting an important milestone in someone’s career path and acquiring a skilled worker.”

Salaymeh was among 98 “remarkable individuals” named for their service to Canada in an announcement yesterday by the Office of the Secretary of the Governor General.

The Meritorious Service Decorations were created by the Queen starting with the Meritorious Service Cross in 1984, for members of the military. In 1991, a medal was added to the military division, and both the cross and medal were introduced for civilians.