It’s been nearly a year since Alma De Leon and her family arrived in Canada from the Philippines on May 31, 2015.
In that time, she’s been through a lot. She struggled through several seasonal jobs and one job she didn’t like before she finally found a permanent, full-time job at Sobeys. She is very excited for April, because she will have been at Sobeys for three months and past the probationary period – this means that she can finally buy a house for her family.
Alma has four children and a husband named Larry. She says that life was very difficult for her when she first got here. Everything was different, and although she applied to many jobs, she had a difficult time finding a permanent job that could support her and her family. Then one day things finally started looking up.
“I was walking from City Hall after finding out that I failed their screening test, just crying,” Alma said. “And I walked down the street and I saw the sign, Immigrant Centre, and I went in.”
Alma went in and met Esther, the receptionist, who asked her for her Permanent Resident card. Dismayed, Alma didn’t have it, and agreed to come back another day with the card. She was running another errand and miraculously found the card in her pocket, and went back to Immigrant Centre that afternoon. That day, Esther was able to set her up with a career counselor named Amy and Alma was on her way to finding meaningful employment.
“Amy helped me with a resume, and then she gave me coaching about interviews. She also helped me to find jobs to apply for. We found this job at Sobeys in December, and I went down and personally applied for it, and I got the job!” said Alma. “Immigrant Centre also gave me the opportunity to attend a computer workshop, which was very helpful. I learned a lot about Microsoft Word, and I can now… type. It’s helped me when I want to update my resume now,” Alma said.
Alma started working at Sobeys on January 15, 2016. She works in the Home Meal Replacement department, preparing sandwiches, meals, and preps the ready-to-go meals, and sometimes she works at the service counter.
“I love my job – I love cooking, I love food,” Alma said. When asked what the best and worst parts of her job were, she said, “the worst part is absolutely taking the bus through the wintertime, but when I reach the store and walk into the kitchen it all goes away because I am so happy to work here. And the best part is that I get to express my creativity through the cooking and plating of the food.”
The best advice she has for new Canadians is:
“Don’t be shy asking for help – the people at Immigrant Centre have the skills to help you and the devoted time to help each individual immigrant.”
Immigrant Centre also helped her husband find a job.
For Alma, the differences between life in the Philippines and in Winnipeg were quite large. “The main difference is that everything in Philippines is reachable, or you can take the tricycle, where the man drives you. Here, you have to drive.”
“The second big difference is the weather. We don’t have winter in Philippines, only summer and rainy days.”
But, she said, it’s worth it. Canada means a better, safer life for her and her family, and she is starting to see a positive future here.
Alma wants to thank Amie, Esther, Reinalyn, Margaret and the rest of the extremely helpful people at Immigrant Centre. Above all, she wants to thank God for this life.
Visit icmanitoba.com to learn more about Immigrant Centre.
Story and photo by Claire McCaffrey