In 2008, 32-year-old Rebecca Hu left China and everything she knew behind. This included family and a secure, well-paying job at a university. But while she chose to launch a new life in Canada, challenges awaited.
As we approach Canada Day, and looking back in history, immigration has played a crucial role in the development and evolution of the country. But for many newcomers, social isolation, climate change, language barriers, finding work and financial pressures, make moving to another land a difficult task.
Rebecca knows full well the stress that accompany integrating into a foreign society. “When I arrived in Toronto, it was a cold winter day,” says Rebecca. “I saw ‘big snow’ like I’d never seen before.” Every day Rebecca plodded through knee-high white stuff to the job search workshop.
For Rebecca, securing employment in her field proved quite a test. Her professional qualifications in China didn’t meet Canadian standards. She would have to be re-certified. Desperate for income, she worked as a clerk for minimum wage.
In addition, although Rebecca taught English in her country, and she knew enough to get by, the language barrier sometimes affected daily activity. “Lack of knowledge of the culture, life and society made communication difficult,” says Rebecca. “Prior to using the transit system on a regular basis, I didn’t understand the bus-stop announcements and where I was to get off,” recalls Rebecca. “I worked hard to improve my English language ability. It’s a digging-in process.”
While Rebecca lived initially with family in Canada, she struggled to find new roles and identity. “I was missing my husband, who was back in China, and my friends,” says Rebecca. “I had to put on a brave face and it wasn’t easy.”
Unable to work in her chosen field, Rebecca soon took an interest in social services. She found her skills and qualifications suited this field and enrolled in a Social Service Worker program. She quickly discovered great pleasure in helping people.
At one placement Rebecca learned of The Salvation Army’s devoted work with immigrants and refugees. She wanted to be part of it and in September 2010 she secured employment as a settlement worker at The Salvation Army’s Immigrant and Refugee Services in Toronto’s downtown core. “I help newcomers find housing, employment, advocate on their behalf with government services, and much more,” says Rebecca.
“I am realizing my dreams,” she continues. “In 2009 my husband joined me in Canada. He works as a software engineer. We recently bought our first home and are extremely happy. We value what Canada offers—freedom, rights, security and prospects for the future. I made the right decision to come to Canada.”