Making Life Easier

Making Life Easier

Red Deer College received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and in partnership with CAIWA conducted a research that aimed to assess programs and services used by immigrant women in Central Alberta.

The purpose:

  • Immigrant women will give voice to their strengths and the challenges they face in their quest for a better life in Central Alberta.
  • The assessment of the programs and services will adopt the format of participatory action research employing Photovoice to collect and share knowledge about their experiences.
  • Central Alberta community service providers and elected leaders will develop strategies to improve the programs and services so to benefit immigrant women.

Voices of Immigrant Women: A Photovoice Project

“… it’s really nice [along the river] , I think it’s safe … because I always take my kids there and I never experience rude people. I like the trails near Bower Ponds, it’s nice and kids can just bring their bikes or my daughter she brings her longboard.”
This picture symbolizes the importance of family and the freedom to have quality time in a safe environment. She immigrated from the Philippines 7 years ago, and moved to Peace River with her young daughter. She fell in love and married a Canadian, now they have 3 children living in Penhold. Together they also foster a baby. While the husband is working she stays at home taking care of the children. Her husband is often away because of his work. She cannot work because hiring a babysitter is too expensive, and to her it would not be worth it.

Penhold does not have many services or recreational locations, therefore she frequently brings her children to Red Deer to play. After a frightening experience at a park witnessing people exchanging drugs, she now is cautious of where she takes her children to play. She actively involves in church activities, and her children play with other children after church. Her suggestion would be to provide services that allow stay-at-home mothers to continue building skills so when they are prepared to return to the workforce they are not disadvantaged from being out of work for so long.

“I’m always happy whenever I work [especially] if it’s [in] my field; now I’m unhappy and that is kind of the challenge I’m facing since I’ve been here in Red Deer.”
This bridge, and the gap between the bridge and the road underneath it, is her story. Right now she’s at the bottom of the bridge, and she’s aiming to be on the top. Selflessly giving up her own dreams, to follow her husband’s, she moved from Cameroon, to Ontario, to British Columbia, and finally to Red Deer, Alberta.
Despite having an extensive professional background in accounting from Cameroon, a diploma in business administration from Ottawa, Ontario, and a bachelor in commerce from Northern British Columbia university, finding employment in Red Deer has been a challenge. There were many attempts using various services in Red Deer to help her with her resume and finding employment in her field, but nobody would hire her. Finally, she got hired in a factory, which is a compromise. Her dream is to eventually start her own accounting firm, and maybe write a book.

She admits that she has experienced varying degrees of discrimination in central Alberta. She hopes that one day, a more inclusive multicultural community could be developed.

She immigrated from Zimbabwe eight months ago with her three children to join her husband in Canada. She was a high school teacher for over 20 years, and her expectation of coming to Canada was that she would be able to find good employment and be financially stable. Despite receiving help on her resume by using different social services and programs, she is unable to find employment.

Because she cannot find employment she does not have money to get her driver’s license, or purchase a vehicle, and she barely has enough for bus fares. As a result, her youngest son has to walk to school every day, and she took this picture to represent the challenges of walking with her son in the early mornings to make sure he gets to school safely. There is no one around so she feels uncomfortable letting her son walk alone. Experiencing the winter season for the first time has been a struggle, especially when taking the bus. She recommends that there be bus shelters at every bus stop, because she has experienced hardships waiting outside for the bus during winter blizzards.

This picture represents her dream to be a journalist and camera woman for a news channel like CNN. She has a degree in Multimedia Communication from a university in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As well as being a journalist, she wants to be a mother, and a public speaker at her church.

The English language barrier has been a challenge for her, especially since only low level English classes are being offered in Red Deer, which contributed to her difficulty in finding work.

As a new immigrant, transportation becomes problematic. One thing she would like to see improve in Red Deer is making bus routes easier to follow, and having more frequent busses.

She has been in Canada for almost a year, and she loves Red Deer because of the people she has met and the relationship she’s fostered at the Home Church. She said, “just to see the name of the church … that’s what home means to me. When I go there, I just feel at home”.

“ To study is to open your mind to other possibilities and not to be ignorant of many things… to have [ability] to speak your mind, to face some situations.”
The RDC School of Business is her biggest dream, as this would allow her to continue her field of work. It is a far away destination because she needs to improve her English skills; which is easier said than done …. The lack of free English class spaces is an issue that she and many other immigrants are facing now. She is taking steps to overcome her language barrier by going to conversation classes at the library and looking for other options to learn English.

As a newly arrived immigrant she has come to love Red Deer, although the changes in weather and food are challenging. She takes them as signs of changes she went through in her life.

She has come here to start a new life to be by her husband’s side. Once she has overcome the challenges she hopes to start her family and progress like many women that immigrated here.

She is not easily deterred; despite the challenges she faces, she maintains a positive attitude as many who start a new life do.

This picture is the Red Deer River but to the photographer it reminded her of the Tiger River in Iraq. Her family came to Canada as refugees in July, 2006, and although it was summer in Red Deer they felt extremely cold. When they first migrated to Canada they were part of the Resettlement Program which provided their lodging and food.

In the beginning there were many challenges such as living accommodations, transportation, food, finances, and the language barrier. Thanks to CARE and CSS they received assistance in becoming familiarized with Red Deer, and through Crossroads Church they met other Muslim friends to connect with. As refugees they didn’t have a choice to come to Canada, the United Nations decided for them. Their friends were sent all over the world, and there are some refugees still waiting to find refuge. Being a part from friends, family, and even their oldest son has been very difficult for her but she has persevered and has found a stable and meaningful career, she also has a vehicle, and is very happy in her home. Her story is like many others who endured many challenges to settle in Central Alberta, but now has a beautiful success story to share with others.

“Red Deer College, every time I see the College I know that’s my safe place that I can achieve my goals. So every time I see it, I see my future in it.”

 

This picture tells a story of a young girl who migrated from Ethiopia at the age of 18 years old to Toronto, Ontario. In 2015 she decided to move to Alberta and study at Red Deer College. In Toronto there are many diverse cultures and she found the transition to be quite comfortable. However, in Red Deer she has experienced many instances of discrimination at Red Deer College and at her place of work. Her dream is to become a dietician, but she had to take several English courses in order to enter into the right program. After several attempts to pass different preliminary levels of English she finally was able to successfully complete the university level first year English course. This was a major accomplishment and it was thanks to one of her professors, who took the time to help her and break the stereotypes against her. It is not easy living by herself in Red Deer, but she is thankful that her workplace allows her to cut her hours to focus on her studies, and still allowing her to work enough to afford her living expenses. Although she has a good job as a support worker for seniors, she recommends that Central Alberta provide more assistance for immigrants to find meaningful work.
This is a picture that most Albertans can relate to, dangerous and harsh winter roads. This woman immigrated to Canada at the age of twenty-four in 2010 from the Philippines. When she first obtained her driver’s license it took her a lot of courage and practice to be able to drive long distances in the winter alone, she always had to ask her husband to drive for her. However, she overcame her fears of winter driving and can now drive alone anywhere she wants. It was extremely challenging for her to be accustomed to the winter season in Alberta. In the Philippines she was a Registered Nurse, however coming to Canada her license did not transfer so she could only afford to take the health care aid certificate and currently works as a health care aid in Ponoka. Every day knowing that she is an RN inside is devastating, but like her story of being able to conquer the challenges of driving alone in the difficult winter roads, she believes that one day she will be able to qualify and become a nurse again. For now, she prioritizes her children, and providing financially for them and once they are older she will be able to save money to go back to school and become an RN. Her suggestions are that the government allow people like her to be able to transfer her license and continue to work as a nurse without needing redo school all over again.

 

 

This picture represents a dedicated and hard working mother who immigrated with her husband in December, 2007 from the Philippines to Ponoka, Alberta.

She initially came to Central Alberta as a contract worker for McDonald’s and after three years her three daughters were able to join her. Once she was promoted to a manager position she gained her Permanent Residency. Her husband is a pastor in Wetaskiwin, and together they are finding it a challenge to reach out to others about their faith. Despite the church being so far she continues to work hard to support the family, and also remains active in the church as a Sunday school teacher for children. Her faith is extremely important for them and their goal is to bring more people to their church. For many years she worked both at McDonald’s and at an Esso gas station, but the stress and exhaustion was too much so she resigned from her position at McDonald’s. She experienced several instances of discrimination from customers at McDonald’s, but her church community and family have helped her through her emotional anxieties.

There are many positive things she loves about Canada, for instance child support from the government, an honest government who returns taxes, student grants for her children for university, and free health care. She is thankful for the Canadian health care, because of how expensive medical attention is in the Philippines. With the money she has earned in Canada she was able to accomplish her dream and buy a house in Ponoka, as well as two other houses in the Philippines for her family.

In Peru she was a successful dentist with her own practice, but four years ago she gave that all up to follow her husband to Canada. Unfortunately, she is unable to be a dentist in Canada, so she is currently working towards improving her English through C.A.R.E. and then study dentistry again. In the first year of immigrating to Canada she experienced homesickness, loneliness, and was feeling unfulfilled without employment. She is thankful to her husband for supporting her through integration, as well as her church for strengthening her faith.

She recommends that Red Deer create equivalence programs for professionals who received their qualifications in other countries. She also wishes that there be more programs for people to practice their language, as well as make lasting friendships. “Because when you are an immigrant, the first time when you arrive to Canada, everything is very scary for you. Sometimes you feel very depressed and very frustrated and you need someone who can listen to you…because after that you feel better when you are talking with somebody”.

“We wanted to live for each other, with each other, and we can do that here [in Red Deer]”.

This picture describes a courageous woman who loves her husband and does not give up on pursuing her dreams.

She immigrated from India with her husband on a whim, not expecting to actually receive her permanent residency. However, they both were given their permanent residency and decided to leave their lives in India and move to Canada in May, 2014.She has her PhD in Kinesiology Sport Psychology and was an assistant professor at a University in India. When choosing where to live they chose Alberta because of the reputation of having the best tax policies, benefits, and health plan. She chose Red Deer because she wanted to spend more time with her husband and living in a bigger city meant wasted time commuting as well as more cost of living. She is passionate about helping the community so she is quite involved in several volunteer positions such as for the Red Cross helping people in the hospital, as well as with C.A.R.E., and teaching people about India in various schools. There are a few things she wishes Canada could improve on, first giving the equivalency of professional skills, and the other being the expectations of references. It is hard to find a job or even a place to rent without providing a reference, and as an immigrant it is not easy to provide references from your home country. Finding a job was difficult because many employers would not hire her because she is overqualified, but then she is left with no choice and continues to study and receive more education to find a good job in Canada.

Today she is currently in the process of receiving equivalency for her pre-PhD Kinesiology degree and studying to receive a management Certificate.

 

 

This pictures tells a story of a woman who immigrated to Canada from Zimbabwe in August, 2016 with her three children to reunite with her husband in Lacombe. They all endured many hard labour jobs, even her children had to work in order for them to be able to afford their basic necessities.

The winter is a huge challenge for them because only her husband has a vehicle so she must wait outside through any weather condition to wait for the bus. In the winter the early mornings are dark, so she fears for her son’s safety and has to walk her son quite a long distance to school. Although she was a high school teacher for over twenty years in Zimbabwe, she dreams of improving her English so she can study to become a social worker. Finding any kind of work has been an extreme challenge for her and through her application process she has expressed feelings of discrimination towards her.

Despite these hardships she is extremely thankful and happy to be in Canada and has connected with a wonderful church community who supports, donates clothing and food, and shares their advice to them frequently. She wishes that there was a program for older adult immigrants to be educated on Canadian culture, and advice on daily necessities such as banking, home ownership, and driver’s license.

This picture tells a story about a woman who has endured many years of hardships to get to where she is now. She immigrated to Lacombe in 2013 from Taiwan, although she is originally from the Philippines. Sadly, her father passed away, and shortly after her husband also passed away. Consequently, due to the medical bills being so costly she made the decision to teach in Taiwan, but to this day she does not like to set foot into a hospital as she cannot bear to re-experience the loss of her loved ones.

 She worked many years as a teacher, however her credentials do not transfer to Canada. She hopes to someday return to her dream job and become a teacher in Canada. When she first left the Philippines she made a difficult decision and left her four children behind, and once again she was separated from her children when she immigrated to Alberta as a live-in caregiver. She went through a difficult time and coming to Canada was supposed to be a fresh start and a chance for a better life for her children. After gaining her permanent residency, and fourteen years later she was able to finally sponsor her children and be reunited with them again. She is now working as a support worker in Lacombe with her four children, extremely thankful for all she’s experienced to get to where she is today.

This picture belongs to an inspiring woman who has endured many hardships.

She has ten children and her family came to Canada as refugees from Syria in July, 2014. She has many younger children who love to play, and transitioning from a large farm in Syria, to a small two-bedroom house in Red Deer without unfriendly neighbours has been an extreme challenge for her. This picture is of their first rental home in Red Deer, and whenever the children would play outside the neighbours would call the police and report a noise complaint. She felt extremely afraid of her neighborhood, and for her children’s safety, the landlord found out about the complaints and had them evacuated, her family then had to move and find new accommodations. The whole family is finding it hard to learn English, but she is thankful that her children have picked it up quickly and are all succeeding in school. She is extremely proud of her children, her one son even won an academic award. There are many financial challenges, at times she cannot afford food or clothing for her children. She has never felt so depressed in her life, mostly because she feels that she cannot provide for her children the way she used to before the war in Syria. Despite the many adversities she faces, she is thankful for her new friends and for CAIWA who is teaching her and her husband English.

She hopes to one day be able to live on a farm, grow her food, and allow her children to play outside again.

Foreseeing the need to drive in Central Alberta to gain access to some locations, she previously prepared herself in the Philippines, obtaining her International Drivers License before coming to Canada. She has gained success in her Class Seven license, however hesitates to challenge her Class Five level of license, as she is intimidated by the fast pace and changing conditions due to the changing weather in Central Alberta. She has been able to conquer her largest fear in learning to drive, however is still unsure of highway driving. She has experienced a barrier in her learning as her husband, only having a Graduated Drivers License, is no longer able to drive with her, limiting her capability and time to drive. She must find driving support elsewhere; driving schools are very costly in Canada, causing a financial barrier for the family.

 

 

 Transportation is the main challenge that is faced, specifically in the winter time when she must wait for the bus being exposed to the snow, wind and cold. Coming to Canada as a young teenager with her family, she has mustered courage to challenge the cold and has learned to not allow the winter season to dampen her spirit, staying positive and motivated to face the elements. She points out that the bus itself and interactions with other people are not the challenge, it is the process and challenges in getting to the bus.

There is challenge faced in the timing of the bus and the cost incorporated with taking the bus, needing money to gain access, however there is an option to buy three month passes that help relieve some of the costs and pressures. She is preparing to challenge her learner’s permit, realizing that while a car is costly, the benefits of owning a car and the stress relief provided from being able to ensure a timely arrival. Until she gains a vehicle operating license she is resigned to take the bus and prepare in advance to ensure she is not late, facing her biggest challenge each day.

 

Coming from the Philippines in 2011 and facing many diverse challenges such as learning to drive, taking care of family, the weather and desiring to save to purchase her own home, there is added stress by the large amount of paperwork expected to be completed and tracked by new coming individuals. There is a lot of paperwork to navigate through the immigration process beginning upon arrival and continuing through the application for permanent residency and onto gaining Canadian citizenship.  

A language barrier has arisen in her understanding of some of the wording and renewal process of the documents, making it difficult for her to completely understand the requirements and expectations that are incorporated with the task. She finds herself hoping that her personal commitment to her family, both in Canada and in the Philippines, will be adequate for everyone to gain benefit from her own success.  

“My husband works, but we don’t have extra money for the class. And I find out about this course, somebody told me, another immigrant, and I registered, and I was approved by the government, so I am lucky. I feel lucky.”

This picture represents a place of comfort and opportunity that she has discovered in Red Deer, Alberta, beginning a journey of understanding through CAIWA and continuing to find further opportunity in supporting her education. Having taken multiple courses, through CAIWA, Academic Express and CARE, the participant strives to achieve her goals and become an active and contributing member of society within her new community.

The acceptance, guidance and understanding, as well as the government assistance that she has been privilege to in Central Alberta has helped her to sustain her family and keep a stable environment for her family.

One of the things that helped her face the challenges of moving to a new country was joining a choir, this gave her the strength to recognize that challenges can be overcome if you put an effort to change things. When she arrived to Red Deer things were different and she feels that information for immigrants should be a priority, she had no information on services or programs catered for immigrants making the transition a little bit harder.

 Her biggest challenges were trying to re-learn a language she had not practice in more than 20 years, finding employment in the area she had worked in her home country, and recognition of her credentials. Her biggest frustration was not being able to get her education recognized to the Alberta standards, even though this barrier was present she has a different career path and she is happy with the place she is in now.

 A very important aspect she emphasized is the power of volunteering for immigrants, she think this is key for people to understand better their new surroundings, build social networks, learn the local language, and gain experience for resume building. She encourages immigrants to volunteer and get out of their comfort zone; this will help anyone overcome their challenges.

She emigrated from El Salvador less than 10 years ago. She immigrated to Canada under the family class with her husband. This picture represents the strength she draws from her family and her children specially. Her home is the center of her life and all the sacrifices she and her husband make are to create a better future for their children.

 This picture also represents spirituality and the important role it has in her life. She is a strong believer in God and is grateful for the opportunities He has provided for her and her family. She has faced many difficulties in her transition to life in Canada, like language barriers, access to proper health care, and inability to get educational recognition. She found strong help in community programs like ESL classes offered at C.A.R.E. and the Hippy program offered for school age children in CAIWA. People in the Latin community who showed her how to get around and where to find the stores and everything else also aided her settlement.

 Although her struggles have not been easy she finds the strongest comfort by attending church and surrounding herself with the light God provides in her life. God and her family are the source of her strength. She would like to help others through volunteering in the near future to give back some of the many things she received when she arrived in Canada.

Coming to Canada in 2015, she came to join her husband, but upon arrival was faced with many difficulties such as language barriers, change in employment, weather and issues with her first landlord; she found it difficult to navigate herself through the new systems that she needed to engage with.

Desiring opportunity and exploration, this picture represents a hope that she will one day be able to open her own business offering other new coming individuals assistance as well as a chance to gain access to some of the comforts of her home land that she is missing herself. She would like her shop to contain items that are traditional to the Ukraine, gaining her own personal success, helping her home country with the sale of the merchandise, and allowing individuals an opportunity to find comfort and tradition in the products that she could offer.

“…you can walk free and don’t think you in danger so you can be free and safe.”

Bower Ponds was the first park that she visited in Red Deer, appreciating an opportunity to have such beautiful places to enjoy the scenery and the nature. The parks and trail system in Red Deer provides a safe and healthy environment where she can enjoy time with family and friends. She enjoys walking the trails with her children, helping them to relax before the day comes to an end.

In her home country of Honduras, the recreational spaces such as parks cost money for admission and are sometimes lacking in safety and security. The parks are reserved for those privileged to afford entrance and are isolated in their locations in Honduras. This leads to further appreciation of the parks and trail system in Red Deer as they are free and all connected. This allows for the public to use at no cost and being easy to get to, allows the area to be accessed on a regular basis.