Bedru Abdusamed Mohamed
Bedru was attending university in Ethiopia, the country where he was born and raised, until political unrest forced him to flee his homeland. Although he lived in a refugee camp for over nine years, Bedru never lost hope.
It was in April 2001 when student protests for basic human rights sparked a military backlash. As Bedru recalls, “immediately torture and random shootings began, followed by mass arrests and detention.” To help those affected, he joined a group of students involved in fundraising. Shortly after, they were kidnapped and detained in a military camp where they were interrogated and tortured. After three weeks, Bedru was released but when the military came looking for him again, he fled to a Kenyan refugee camp. As he recalls, “…[t]here was not enough to eat, no power, no telecommunications, no television. [A] shortage of water caused a lack of hygiene and a widespread [infection] of cholera and other related water born illnesses.”
In March of 2010, Bedru and his family entered Canada. Even though for Bedru the refugee camp was horrific, he says, “…it was also a highway to paradise.”
In Canada, Bedru struggled toward his goal of becoming an Engineer and his first milestone was to learn English. He completed English classes through the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada program and after one year of his arrival in Canada, Bedru was accepted in the College of Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan.
Bedru continues to work hard, as he says “to prove myself as a responsible student by meeting and exceeding all my responsibilities both at home, as a father of four, and at school.” Bedru is very grateful to the Canadian Government, and the staff at the Saskatoon Open Door Society for assisting him in his move and settlement.
Nisha Patel arrived in Canada less than a year ago – on March 30, 2012. She moved to Saskatoon from India with her husband and their three-year-old son. Nisha says learning English was her first step toward making Saskatoon her new home, but having a young son made this difficult.
“I really needed an English class and day care,” she says. “I have a three-year-old child, and it was a big problem.”
She heard about the Saskatoon Open Door Society from many different people and was pleased to discover the organization offered day care services. “Open Door has the best free English class for new immigrants,” she says. “And I really appreciated the child day care provided to me.”
Nisha has now begun looking to begin her career, and has advised many people to try the English classes at Open Door.
Two years before making the move from Pakistan to Saskatoon, Sid Bosan traveled to Saskatoon. “Because I visited in 2009, there were no surprises when I moved here,” he says. “It was great when everything like admission for my children into high school and finding a place to settle went very smoothly.”
He landed as an immigrant on January 6th, 2012 with his wife and two children. “Canada was our first choice due to its acceptance of immigrants from all over the world. We chose Saskatoon because it has witnessed tremendous growth during the last few years and has great potential.”
Sid found the Saskatoon Open Door Society (SODS) through word of mouth. He met other newcomers who had had a positive experience with the organization. Sid worked in office furniture sales in Pakistan and registered in the Towards Enhanced Labour Market Access (TELMA) program at Open Door to help him find work in his field. “It helped me by narrowing down my job search and preparing my resume as per the market requirements.”
After being in Saskatoon for just over a year, Sid is already working in his field. “I am now working for OFFICEMAX Grand and Toy as a product specialist. I work with interiors and take care of furniture orders,” he says. “I consider myself lucky because OFFICEMAX Grand and Toy was ranked among the most ethical companies of the world in 2012 and 2013.”
He says he would advise other newcomers to use resources like SODS when they arrive. “They are there not only to help new immigrants settle, but also to remain focused on their respective profession and get used to local culture and practices.”
Saeed Ul Amin
Saeed Ul Amin’s journey to Saskatoon began back in 2001 and has been an exercise in patience. Soon after completing two years of college, a Bachelor of Science with honours from Northwest Frontier Provincial Agricultural University in Peshwar, Pakistan, and a Master’s of Science degree, Saeed applied for immigration to Canada.
While waiting for a response, he worked as Manager of Agronomic Services in the field of Agriculture and Resource Management, motivating farmers to use more efficient technology to increase their productivity and reduce natural resource consumption. “That was a challenge. When you want change in the traditional crop system, there is always difficulty,” says Saeed. “People have been farming for 40 or 50 years and say they don’t want change. It’s always risky.”
In 2005, Saeed was finally called for an interview at the Canadian High Commission and one year later, received his Canadian Visa. “The Visa was given to me with my wife and children and in 2006 we immigrated to Canada,” he remembers. But they had to make one more stop before moving to Saskatoon.
“We first chose Montreal because I had to improve my education here. I was admitted to McGill University in their engineering department and did a Master’s in Integrated Resource Management.”
While living in Montreal, Saeed’s wife took classes for a Child Care Development Diploma. Both were also working and taking care of their three children. “Working part-time and going to school for three years was a little bit tough,” Saeed remembers. “We passed that hard time, when you move from another country and have a hard time establishing in a new environment. It was a difficult decision to move again to a new place.”
But when Saeed had finished his degree and searched for the best places in Canada for him to find work, he realized Saskatchewan was the place to be. “We all know that Saskatchewan is the food basket of Canada,” he laughs. And so in 2009, Saeed and his family relocated to Saskatoon.
“When I came here and was searching for a job, it was very hard for five or six months,” he says. “I did different odd jobs and then one of my friends told me he was taking the Open Door Society ELT (Enhanced Language Training) program.”
When Saeed looked into the program and saw that the ELT program included working on resumes, cover letters and interview skills as well as mentoring and a job placement, he signed up for the course. “I found the co-ordinators and instructors were really helpful and motivating. They’re very open-minded and are very concerned that new immigrants should get their position in society,” he says. “I really appreciated that.”
Saaed got a job placement at the Saskatoon West Water Treatment Plant after touching up his resume and cover letter. However, within two weeks of being there, Saeed’s mentor told him about a job opening at South Saskatchewan River Watershed Stewards Inc. Saeed applied for the position and was hired as Watershed Projects Manager soon after. He says the job is a great fit. “We are working in protection in both water and agriculture. Those are my specialties.”
And Saskatoon is a good fit for Saeed and his family as well. “I like Saskatchewan. It’s given me a sense of my own environment and it feels familiar because we were from a rural background,” he says. “You can meet people and make connections. In my neighbourhood, the people are great and usually supportive.”
He advises other newcomers to visit the Open Door Society, particularly for the ELT program. “My experience with the Open Door Society – the mentoring activities and networking and real support people have given me – that was enormous,” he says. “We need such programs. When people come with knowledge and experience, they need these three or four months with ELT just for polishing.”
Saeed has other advice for newcomers as well: “We’ve seen in these five, six years that the people who work hard and never give up are now successful,” he says. “People should search for work and get ready to meet the requirements. There are opportunities.”
Afzaal Arshad had never lived in a city with less than a million people before moving to Saskatoon. He grew up in Faisalabad and went to university in Lahore, Pakistan and then moved to London, UK after finishing his Master’s of Commerce degree from Hailey college of Commerce, University of the Punjab, Lahore.
His move to Saskatchewan was a bit of a surprise even to Afzaal. “When I came here, I thought I might go to Toronto or Calgary. Most people go to big cities. The normal conception is that there are more work opportunities,” he says. However, as his sister and her family have lived here happily for 10 years, Afzaal chose Saskatoon.
After living here for a year, he says he’s happy with the decision. “The main thing is it just feels like home,” says Afzaal. “I don’t feel that I am not a part of society.” On top of the friendliness and the quick traveling time – “whichever part of the city something is in, I can be there in 10-15 minutes!” – Afzaal found the prairie summer weather to be a nice surprise. “I didn’t know it was going to be 30, 35 degrees,” he says. “That was great.”
Afzaal heard about the Open Door Society from his brother-in-law Aziz Rehman and signed up for the Enhanced Language Training (ELT) program, even though he learned English in university. He found that the program included much more than language, like Canadian culture and the local job market. “We covered so many things. People were from all over the world, many different countries, so there was no shame in asking any questions,” he says. “That was the great thing – the environment. Everyone at the Open Door Society was just trying to help you.”
While taking the ELT program, Afzaal also worked toward getting his CGA designation. “In the short term, I wasn’t making money but in the long run, I’m contributing more to the community as a whole and to my self-improvement,” he says. “It’s better than working a survival job for the rest of your life.”
Finishing both courses gave Afzaal a boost of confidence and prepared him for finding a job in his field. He then had a local designation to demonstrate his accounting knowledge, and had learned from ELT how to prepare a portfolio of work for an interview. “Even though at that time I didn’t have a job, I was in that mood where I knew soon I was going to get something,” he remembers. And his positive thinking paid off. Afzaal was offered an Accounting Supervisor position at International Road Dynamics – the first place he interviewed.
“In my class, I was the last one who got a job. Christine Roberge [ELT Instructor] said she’d seen this situation before and whichever student gets the last job gets the best job,” he laughs. “I think that’s actually come true. I’m very happy in my work environment and I’m using the knowledge I had from before. At the same time, there are many opportunities to learn new things.”
Afzaal would encourage other immigrants to follow a path similar to his own. “Get some local education, even if you have to get a loan,” he says. “Every country has its own system of education. Unless you have something local, it’s hard to show your experience and knowledge.” He also recommends getting involved with the Open Door Society. “Everyone puts in so much effort for you to get used to the new place. I really appreciate the support I got from Open Door.”
As the supervisor of his department, Afzaal brought in a morning tradition he had learned in ELT. “We always had a positive message for the day,” he says. “I introduced that at my new job.” And his last words of advice apply to everyone: “Stay positive,” he says. “Keep away from negative people.”
Mary Ann Posada
Mary Ann Posada moved to Saskatoon with her husband Daniel and their children Madeline and Hannah in July of 2011. In Marilao, Bulacan in the Philippines, Daniel worked as a Systems Engineer with a credit card verifier company and Mary Ann was a Certified Public Accountant.
“We chose Canada because of its reputation for taking good care of its natural resources, high regard for family and the health of its society,” says Mary Ann. Her family was nominated by Mary Ann’s cousin, who has lived in Saskatoon for over 20 years. “There must be something Saskatoon has to offer for her to stay that long,” she says.
It was also Mary Ann’s cousin who brought the Posada family to the Open Door Society to help them find work. “We were commissioned to an employment counselor who helped us rebuild our resumes and cover letters,” Mary Ann says. “And they would send us emails about job openings and courses offered at the Open Door Society.”
Mary Ann says she was able to take advantage of a few courses, including the three-month Business Ready course. “It opened so many doors for me to understand Canada's work ethics, learn techniques to look for a job, build up interview skills, resume and cover letters and even learn labor laws in Saskatchewan and Saskatoon,” she says. “It was very informative and helpful for new immigrants like us.”
Before leaving for Canada, Mary Ann and her husband sought counsel from the spiritual leaders in their community. “We were advised to have an objective to focus on. This would help us leave our comfort zone,” she says. “Ours was for me to finally be a stay-at-home mom and focus on attending to my family. We came to be nurturing parents and give our children a solid foundation for their future that we believe only this country can provide.”
She would advise other newcomers to take a similar approach. “It’s actually a major transition in your life so you should not expect a lot,” she says. “Newcomers should have an objective that will lead them to their dreams and hopes for coming here. They should also keep their feet on the ground and remember to look back and be proud of where they came from.”
After living in Canada for nearly ten months, the Posada’s are close to reaching their goal. While Daniel works as a CNC Machine operator, Mary Ann has been able to work only part-time hours and focus more time on her family.
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