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.