From her first long and difficult winter in Winnipeg to her proud Citizenship Ceremony, Marietta Franco, Newcomer Assessment and Referrals Facilitator at Immigrant Centre shares her story:
I see people walking to and fro, children running, people sitting and talking and there I was sitting with my family – my husband at the very far end, followed by my daughter, my son and my youngest daughter. “Mommy are they not going to open the door yet?” my six-year old blurted out. I was so deep in thought that I almost did not hear her. She asked me again and I said “they will open the door shortly Bettina”. It was the scene at the Via Rail Station lobby on January 16, 2014 while waiting for the door to open at the Citizenship and Immigration Canada office. It was a windy and cold day but I would say a very exciting and extraordinary day for us. It was our Canadian Citizenship oath taking ceremony.
I came to Canada 5 years ago. We arrived in November, 2008 full of hopes and full of dreams. I came from the Philippines – though it is a third world country, it is very rich in natural resources and is known for its hospitality. Yes, we are hospitable and resilient people. For myself, I did not come to Canada to escape any oppression nor persecution. In fact I had a happy life and a wonderful job in the Philippines. My reason was mainly for my kids, for them to have a better and brighter future. I know that Canada is a land of opportunity. When we came here our children were 13, 8 and 11 months. When my youngest was born I realized how big our responsibility was to our children. Of course as a parent I have to give them the best things life can offer. And Canada was the one country that came into my mind. So to make long story short, I applied and was accepted and so here we are.
Starting life in Canada was not easy at all. I thought I had prepared myself for the worst. I said to myself I should accept whatever life may bring us because I was the one who decided to immigrate here. Plans are more easily said than done. I did not realize that it’s harder than I thought. First, the temperature – imagine coming from a tropical island where the temperature ranges from 30 – 40 degrees Celsius, sometimes even higher during the summer. And here it’s way below zero! I remember one time I was waiting for the bus to come to take me to downtown Winnipeg for a career fair. I felt so alone inside the bus shelter and the bus did not come on time. I remember myself being so discouraged that I cried and cried. I decided to head home instead of going to the job fair. I also remember looking out the window every morning and seeing no one, not a single soul, walking, unlike in my country, where whatever time of the day, there’s people outside. I began to question myself – is this a forsaken world? What in the world am I doing in this place? That was our first winter; it was the longest winter of my life.
Another challenge was looking for a job. I remember applying online to all the jobs I’d seen on the Canada Job bank, Workopolis, etc. you name it. I felt I sent a thousand resumes online already but not a single response from employers. I found myself again, crying, crying and crying – feeling so sad and discouraged, wanting to go back to my home country and asking myself again why have I come here. That’s the way it was for months – discouragement, disappointments, regrets and so many negative thoughts. And every time I would feel that way I would always ask my children if we can go back to the Philippines because I thought it wasn’t a good decision for us to come to Canada. But they would just shrug me off with a joke that I can go back myself if I wanted to, but they are staying.
Then one day as I was in a bus on my way to attend another job fair, I met an acquaintance (I met him once while applying for a job) who told me about the Immigrant Centre, which was then the International Centre on Edmonton Street. He said that he was taking a course and he had received good guidance from the Centre. He encouraged me to go. But even before that, my husband had been already using the Centre’s services and he actually had a Settlement Facilitator and eventually an Employment Facilitator who helped him with information about settling and working in Manitoba. I remember him telling me to go the Immigrant Centre because he thought they can help me as well. He said he knew about the Centre through a brochure that was given to us in Vancouver when we arrived in Canada. But even though he told me about it I did not pay attention because my mind was busy elsewhere. I didn’t know exactly what I was thinking that time. I was confused, I guess.
So after 11 months of being helpless, or so I thought, I went to the Immigrant Centre to find whatever help I could get. I can still recall it so vividly in my mind, I was so down that day when I spoke to Sandra, who was then the Intake Facilitator, it was September, 2009. She told me later that she can never forget the look on my face that day – she saw desperation. I told her how frustrated I was that even Tim Horton’s job had not responded to my application. So instead, I would upgrade my skills through continuing education, if she could help me. She made several appointments for me to see people from different departments. Little did I know that it will be the start of something extremely good. I came to meet Lauren, she was the Employment Facilitator then. She helped me with my career goals and everything about job hunting. Then one day she sent me a job posting from the Immigrant Centre. She thought I would qualify for the job. So I applied and was hired… the rest is history.
Their help did not end there. When I supported my brother to immigrate here, the Settlement people guided me with all the information I needed. They also helped me with my Citizenship application. I would say, in my own experience, the Centre’s help goes a very long way. Even when a client is already settled and thinks that she/he no longer needs help from the Centre… I assure you, you will again one day. Our Centre offers short and long term help/guidance to clients, especially permanent residents.
With all the struggles, challenges and disappointments that I’ve experienced, I found joy, triumph and hope… I have so many things to be thankful for. First of all, I have God to thank. My family who have stood by me. My brothers and their families who have supported me. My church family who have guided me. My sincerest gratefulness is also extended to my Immigrant Centre family – you have opened the door of opportunity and you have welcomed me to your team with open arms. You’ve been there through the difficult and happy moments of my life. I am so proud to be working with all of you – amazing people! I have now come to realize that I have a purpose in coming here – to Canada. And if you ask me whether I would still take the same road I’ve taken five years ago, I would say YES I would… for this is home!