Making Life Easier
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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]”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
A great challenge she faced was getting her drivers’ license, she had to try multiple times as there was always an issue to deal with, she finally got her license and this gave her a sense of freedom and less reliance on her husband to run errands. She is now more independent and has a stable job, and dominates the English language better.
She is very grateful for the help she obtained from C.A.R.E. and CAIWA. She feels that C.A.R.E. is the key to her success as this was the place where she learned English, learned about programs and services offered in Red Deer, and met a lot of wonderful people. She is also extremely thankful for the support she received from CAIWA, as it is through them that she was able to find stable employment and pursue her career goals.
Her dream is to be a teacher assistant in a school; she feels this would be closely related to what she did back home. She is studying at the McBride career group and will be getting her diploma soon. She is an example that hard work and dedication pay off in the end.
She comes from a warm climate country and her biggest challenge has been getting used to the harsh Albertan weather. She finds the road conditions during winter to be a concern for safety reason. She finds life in Central Alberta to be very fast paced, with little time to spend with the people that matter, her family.
She feels that life here is hard because there is little economic stability and this forces her to work two jobs to keep up with expenses. While she is a highly educated woman, she has not made an effort to revalidate her education as she feels this may be too costly for her to carry such burden.
She loves her family and loves spending time with them; she wishes she had more time to spend with them before her children grow up. In effort to acquire better economic stability and free time she wishes to have her own business; be her own boss. She is working hard toward this goal and hopes that within a short while this dream will become a reality, she has an online business to achieve this goal.
She has been living in Canada since 2007, and moved to Alberta in 2013. Emigrated under the economic class. Has managed to get her social work diploma and is happy to work with the immigrant community.
She has had many positive experiences as an immigrant; she was able to find a good job in Alberta, which allows her to do something she loves to do, help people. She was fortunate to find her desired educational path at RDC in the social work area. She also had a great experience by doing a practicum at the College Side Garden retirement home. While working there she combined two of her passions helping others and playing music, as she often played for the elderly in the retirement home.
She enjoys helping other people and that’s why she became a social worker. She also enjoys learning and playing music. Music symbolizes a universal language that can be understood by everyone, and to her is a barrier breaker as she thinks it can express many emotions something hard to explain in words. Music has helped her break language barriers she faces as an immigrant. More importantly it helps her get close to her children, as they all enjoy learning and playing music at home. Music is the best way for her to relax, de-stress, and share her own cultural background.
Transitioning from a smaller to a larger environment with new experiences and expectations is difficult and takes a lot of courage. She has encountered many difficult experiences including discrimination within her place of employment, having customers treat her poorly due to the color of her skin. She was not supported by her supervisor who witnessed the interaction and never took stand to defend her as the employee, leaving her to feel vulnerable and devalued. In the service industry, she has found it difficult to gain respect, patience and understanding from others when faced with such barriers as language.
Striving to be a role model for her children, she strives to show representation of a responsible and valid member of society that contributes to her community. She does not desire to be pitied, but does express a desire for care, understanding, respect and opportunity to engage as a valued member of her employment environment.
“No, I am not qualified. And, yeah, I am not qualified. You can work in the hospital as an aid maybe, but to do and use your background, what you have, it’s not, we are not qualified. Because they need to have, you have to study here. They have their own standards of education.”
Previously working as a nurse in the Philippines, she found the need for a career change when arriving in Canada, not gaining credit for her existing level of education. She has gained employment through CAIWA in the HIPPY program helping support young new coming families to establish a supportive educational path with their children, however would like to return to her passion within the Health Care system.
There are many difficulties her family has faced in settlement including finances, leading her to be concerned of the large cost that is related in returning to school, needing to also fulfill an English Second Language requirement to successfully attain her personal goals in life and sustain her family within the Canadian economy.
After arriving in Central Alberta in 2013 with permanent residency and experiencing some difficulties in her relationship and in the absence of her three children, she has found comfort and companionship in meeting friends and visiting with them over a hot chocolate and doughnut, helping her to cope with her struggles.
In Red Deer she has found the capability and confidence to gain a life of independence on her new journey. She is returning to her education, becoming licensed as a Home Care Aid, understanding the need to further her education in her new environment to gain her personal success. Determined to work hard and discover avenues that help support her independence, she strives to achieve excellence, committed to learning and dissolving barriers that may arise.
There are comforts and allowances permitted in Canada that she did not experience in her home country of Mexico that she appreciates, however she has found financial struggles as she is the major wage earner within her home. Possessing the skills and knowledge that jewellery making requires, she is hopeful to return to her passion, aspiring to produce desirable products to sell that could help her family gain the financial stability that they need.
Experiencing a poor working environment when arriving in Canada within her first place of employment, she became discouraged in her capabilities. Feeling a disconnect in her understanding of the English language and the application of language in Canada she has struggled with full comprehension, but is gaining understanding and fluency building her level of confidence to engage with her community.
The change of climate and weather conditions have been an abrasive change for her, coming from the Philippines with her family as a student at thirteen years of age. As she gets older, learning to drive herself, she recognizes the difficulties and challenges faced by the changing seasons.
Being exposed to the cold climate while waiting for transportation or walking through the snow on the streets of Red Deer, she finds concern for the individuals that have no other form of transportation. Coming with her family to Canada and growing up she has been able to adapt within the new environment, however admits a desire to move home due to the warmer climate
There are multiple reasons to attend the downtown area of Red Deer such as employment and resources like CAIWA, however the appearance of the area is very intimidating and unsafe. Witnessing such behaviours as drug use has led her to avoid the area when possible.
She is concerned for her children’s future, wanting to set a good role model for them to relate to, so chooses not to engage in such behaviours as drugs or gambling and she does not
“…being in China, I studied pharmacy, I practice in the hospital, and I worked in the different places too and you know, I got a raise even, where I work, stuff like that and you know I felt so confident when I was in China and once I came here, everything felt like I couldn’t do anything. I am nothing and I was just lost so much of my confidence that like first year.”
Being faced with the fact that she could not continue with her initial passion of Pharmacy, which she has studied in China, she was faced with the challenge of returning to her education to build herself a new aspiration for her life, becoming a Massage Therapist. She has found that her new career choice allows her to continue to help people with her new skill, but also allows her to use some of her previous knowledge to support her new business venture.
Although there have been many struggles that she has faced in a new country and new environment, she has progressed forward, facing each challenge and learning to cope with the barriers. She has been able to support her children with her new career, supporting them in a healthy and happy lifestyle, building her own confidence and gaining her personal success.
The picture represents both the dreams and challenges that are faced in Central Alberta. After studying Finances in the Ukraine and working within the industry, she found she really enjoyed the work and desires to continue with her passion.
Upon coming to Canada for years ago she has lost recognition of her previous credentials and must return to her education in Canada for her to pursue her dream of working in a big business industry and re-establish herself within the field. She hopes that patience and dedication will help to dissolve the barriers that she faces, finding support in her successes of her dreams of working in a bank or a large office environment.
When she first arrived in Canada she found comfort in friends she met while working as a live in caregiver, which helped her to feel less isolated and provided her a welcoming atmosphere. She had no family in Canada when she first arrived, so finding a small community in a new country was a great way to deal with the isolation she felt at the beginning.
She loves living in Red Deer and is grateful that her family is finally living here. She hopes to find a larger place to live to accommodate her big family. She has been living here for the more than five years and feels completely at home in Central Alberta.
She enjoys spending time with her family, specially trying to recover the years she lost while she was away from her family. She enjoys spending her free time with her youngest children, which she sees as the greatest blessing to be able to see them grow up.
All the positive things that have occurred in her life have been a blessing from God as she sees it. She loves going to church. She feels extremely welcomed and is grateful she found this church. They have helped her to feel at home in Central Alberta and are always helping her in any way possible.
“I am always working towards going to my dream job”
She migrated to Canada under the family class program and has been living in Central Alberta since 2012. She found a lot of help from CAIWA and describes it as a place where she feels at home and welcome. She got help in finding a job and has met a lot of friends here.
This picture represents her biggest dream becoming a police officer in Canada. Her dream originates from the fact that she was a police officer in her home country and feels like this would be the perfect fit for her. She has looked into this career and admits there are some set backs but she will work hard to achieve this dream.
This picture also represents a little of what she left behind when she moved to Canada. She sees it as a reminder of the family and friends that are in her home country and how much she misses them. She strongly believes that if she were to become a police officer she would obtain the economic stability to bring her parents to Canada, something she desires very much.
Although finding the path toward her dream career seems like a hard one, she does not despair. She puts all her energy and efforts in achieving her goals by working hard and keeping her eyes on the price. She is a great example of the strength and courage immigrant women have when it comes to providing better futures for themselves and their families.