Longing to live in a new country, my husband and I applied for the Skilled Worker Visa while in Japan. After a year, we were lucky enough to obtain it and move to Canada. We chose Vancouver because of its milder weather, possible job opportunities and the proximity to our home country. We had no relatives nor friends here and had to start from scratch.
Although it was our dream to live in another country, the reality was not sweet for us: every day was a challenge at the beginning. My husband had no job, and I had no idea what to do here with my 4-year-old daughter. Fortunately, we found resourceful organizations such as WorkBC and MOSAIC to help us move forward. My husband took advice from WorkBC and soon found a volunteer opportunity. I found free English classes for Immigrants with Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) through ISSofBC, which came with free childminding. Thanks to these organizations, my husband started to gain the required Canadian experience and my daughter and I started going to school. We were slowly fitting in the community and moving on to our next stage.
LINC classes were fun. The content of the class was great – it provided us Canadian cultural knowledge, as well as norms of speech with examples of useful vocabulary and phrases. The friends I made there were so nice and motivated. We still keep in touch. One of the friends in the class sent me an e-mail about the Library Champions Project (LCP) and Immigrant Women’s Peer Support Program(IWPSP). My friend said she got the information from WorkBC. Both programs provide training and a volunteer opportunity. After I left LINC, I thought the next step was volunteering. So, I applied for both the Library Champions Project and IWPSP.
In the Library Champions Project, Champions have to commit to 4 training sessions and 3 months of volunteering. What I most enjoyed as a Library Champion was making friends and organizing my own presentation. My friends and I got together after the training sessions to discuss how to make an exciting presentation. We made an appointment with an organization and set up the schedule for the presentation by ourselves. The first presentation we gave was to our ESL class. It didn’t go very well because we were so nervous. With the ESL teacher’s review and LCP organizer’s advice, we revised the content and delivery of the presentation. We had our chance 2 months later to present to another ESL class. We were given more time and we were much more relaxed. We had a chance to interact with participants and answer their questions with ease. With the joy of success, my friends and I all smiled feeling so accomplished. We also got better review from the same ESL teacher for the second time!
While the Library Champions Project was about a 4 month commitment, IWPSP, provided by PeerNetBC, was a much longer program. It required 100 hours of training followed by 10 meetings of facilitation practicum. Focusing on facilitation, the program also covered practical topics for immigrants such as mental health, personality, racism, childminding, violence at home and financial literacy. In the training, we shared personal and heartwarming stories with other participants. Many participants had many experiences in Canada and their smiles cheered me up. I got positive energy from them whenever I attended. After finishing the training, my co-facilitator, who was taking the same program, and I, completed 10 practicum sessions for the Japanese Women Peer Support Group (JWPSG) at ISSofBC in this summer. We covered the topics the participants chose. Sometimes we asked guest speakers to come to explain difficult topics such as taxation, job hunting, MSP and TFSA/RRSP/RESP, most of the time I had to research the topic in advance to facilitate the program well. Preparation was the hardest part for me, but I could also learn details of the topics. One interesting thing was that one of the participants received the information of JWPSG from the Library Champions Project organizer! So, I felt a connection and I could give back a little to a community.
MOSAIC – LINC – WorkBC – LCP – IWPSP – JWPSG – Are all like an enlightening chain. Networking here has proved to be very important because it opens up the next step. Finishing LCP and JWPSG, I have now started Adult Basic Education (ABE) which I heard from my LINC classmates. I hope to enter college and get a degree in Canada. I am sure the ABE program will broaden my world and connections more. It is, truly, a life-long journey and cannot be changed in the blink of an eye, but we, immigrants, can enjoy the process as well, can’t we?
If you’re interested in learning more about the Library Champions Project, please sign up for an information session here: http://newtobc.ca/newcomer-resources/library-champions-training-schedule/