Tourism HR Canada is delighted to honour a leader in positive human resource practices. Living Water Resorts accepted our Distinguished HR Service Award, presented as part of Canada’s Tourism Week.
The Collingwood, Ontario, property has a long history of valuing its staff and implementing progressive, supportive HR policies.
In early February, it demonstrated leadership and compassion when faced with a shocking situation. As detailed in Canadian Lodging News and other media, an OPP investigation revealed that Mexican cleaners whom Living Water Resorts had hired via a temporary employment agency were in fact victims of human trafficking. Promised jobs and education, the individuals were living in substandard housing, 30 or more to a house, and sleeping on mattresses. The end of each month saw them with only $50 in pay. Living Water Resorts had been paying the agency a fair rate and trusted that the workers were receiving their share, let alone were being treated with dignity and humanity.
Guided by Living Water Resorts’ Larry Law, CEO and Founder, Warren Smith, Executive Vice President, and Donald Buckle, VP of Resort Operations and General Manager, the resort launched what would become a coordinated community effort to assist the victims.
“On behalf of our servant leadership team and staff at Living Water Resorts and the local caring community, we are humbled to receive Tourism HR Canada’s Distinguished HR Service Award for doing the right thing and helping the Mexican trafficking victims,” said Larry Law, CEO and Founder. “We were sad that they were being treated as slaves. Our focus was simply to help. We never imagined receiving an award for helping these victims. We are very proud to join the past award recipients who have demonstrated leadership that contributes to economic and social benefits for workers and the Canadian tourism sector.”
Caring & Fun Service in a Joyful Community
Living Water Resorts is committed to providing a caring and fun community for each of its valued guests, vacation members, and staff. By delivering caring customer service in a comfortable and joyful environment, the property ensures its guests will create wonderful memories of the moments that matter.
The resort is committed to Business as a Mission. Through a shared commitment to caring and fun, the business is a platform for promoting compassion, inspiring each other to live out meaningful lives, and striving for excellence in serving guests, staff, the community, and beyond.
Its leaders are dedicated to being “servant leaders” to ensure staff members find fulfilment and inspiration at work. They believe the care and support staff receive enrich their attitudes and create a positive influence on the company and wider community. Their wish is for staff members to see themselves as “not only cutting stones, or simply earning wages, but helping to build a cathedral”.
Consistent with its strong beliefs, Living Water Resorts has initiated a range of programs and services.
Staff-focused initiatives include:
- Periodic wellness seminars on such topics as parenting, healthy lifestyles, and relationship building
- Company Chaplains to provide personal coaching
- Personal growth groups
- Annual Amazing Race for team building and for getting to know the local community better
- Social events, such as golfing for team building, bi-monthly anniversary luncheons, and staff appreciation dinners
- A Caring Fund for staff with unanticipated, urgent financial needs
- Fund-matching initiatives to support staff charity work in response to local needs or global disaster-relief projects
Local (and broader) community initiatives include corporate donations, sponsorships, and events supporting:
- The local library, hospitals, schools, and churches
- Habitat for Humanity
- Educational initiatives, such as after-school projects and a local history project for high-school students
- Scholarship programs for Georgian College and Tyndale University
- The annual Leadercast Conference
- Local community events, such as the Civic Leader Prayers Breakfast
- Families in need by partnering with local churches to offer Christmas dinners
“In the absence of action and response, words and vision are meaningless.”
Upon learning of the plight of the human trafficking victims, Living Waters Resorts was given the opportunity to validate that its long-time commitment to “Business as a Mission” was more than just words.
Larry Law shared his thoughts: “As a Christian businessman, I felt for them. For many years, we have been saying our work is business as a mission, work with a purpose. Today we now understand the larger vision of our purpose and what God has been creating for us.”
After Don Buckle spoke with victim services officials about the immediate challenges facing the 43 workers, Larry put his resorts’ words into action.
“I said, we will take them all. We wanted to jump in and help, knowing we would be giving them a hotel room in our busy season. Then we figured out how much work we had to offer, knowing we could provide jobs, but not necessarily for all 43 workers permanently,” explained Law.
Living Water Resorts’ immediate commitment to rescuing the workers inspired widespread support from local businesses, community associations, churches, and the Living Water Resorts staff: the Collingwood Salvation Army provided free clothing; the town of Collingwood provided free bus passes for two months; Pastor Daniel Chatham of the Collingwood Journey Community Church helped assess their needs and facilitated monetary donations at several local businesses; and the local Spanish Club and a church member who had worked with a charity in Paraguay offered translation services.
One of the most humbling and nicest stories of help came from the parent of a seven-year-old boy who donated $3 from his savings because he wanted to help the Mexican workers. Truly, an inspired learning moment for the family.
Looking back on the opportunity to serve, Larry Law is immensely proud of his resort staff for embracing and supporting the victims: “When the opportunity prevailed, we stepped up to offer help. We took the priority of kindness and compassion over the business of rental income and we offered them free accommodation for 30 days.”
Two conversations illustrate and confirm the Living Water Resorts commitment as a caring resort creating moments that matter.
As Larry Law recalls: “At the welcome dinner we hosted, one man said, ‘I went to sleep as a slave and woke up as a free man.’ And just last week a Mexican worker approached me in the parking lot and said, ‘I don’t know how to say thank you well, but we do so with our good work.’”
Reflecting on those early February challenges and unhesitating actions, Larry Law is unwavering in his certitude: “By God’s grace, we, together, turned the negative to positive. People are inspired to do good deeds.”