Lamis is a new arrival from Syria who came to Canada through The Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP). Jumpstart Refugee Talent has partnered with Talent Beyond Boundaries (TBB) to support the EMPP program, and as such, Lamis was referred to our organization.
Lamis shares her account of journeying to Canada with her family, and the challenges that come with work and personal life in unfamiliar territory. This is her story;
“I am from Syria. I always dreamed of learning English when I was young but ended up studying Nursing. When I completed my schooling, I decided to take my masters in Maternity Care. I only got through three years of my degree before conflicts in my country forced me to move to Lebanon.
I tried to start a new life there, but it was hard. I did not have official documents, so finding work and a place to live was a challenge. During my five years of living in Lebanon, I only worked two and a half years as a nurse in the Diabetic Project for Syrian refugees.
I knew I wanted more out of my life, so I registered with Talent Beyond Boundaries (TBB), an organization that connects refugees with employers around the world. My English wasn’t the best at this time, so when I got an interview with a company based in Canada, I ended up losing the position to someone who was more proficient.
I was upset at first, but this loss gave me the motivation I needed to improve myself and my English. I registered for a five-month course in a local English education center, and once I received my certificate and told TBB, I had an interview within the month.
I still remember how I felt when TBB told me I had passed the interview, I was so excited to start a new life. I wanted to give my daughters stability, something we didn’t have in Lebanon. The actual process of moving to Canada was quite long, but TBB made everything very easy and smooth for us.
Arriving in Canada was amazing, but it brought about a series of challenges I had never faced before. I was working full-time, taking care of my family, and facing the unpredictable hurdles that came my way. The new country, culture, language, even weather was unfamiliar, but I was determined to succeed.
The first major hurdle came in the form of transportation. I live in a small town with a single bus route that takes more than an hour to complete its loop. A trip to Walmart can take up to 45 minutes each way. This is especially challenging in the winter when snow and ice slows everything down. I talked with my husband, and we decided to get a car. Since we had no credit history, however, the interest rates we were offered were much too high. We spoke with TBB, and they helped us secure two loans so we could finance a car suitable for every season.
The second hurdle came in the form of language. Even with my certificate, and constant English practice, the language barrier between native English speakers and myself was a problem. It’s hard enough to make close connections when you’re speaking a second language, but regional accents and slang add to the issue. For example, I learned how to say and understand “How are you?”, but speakers here would say “How ‘re ya?”. At first, I was too shy to speak up when I didn’t understand someone, but I told myself I would never get better if I didn’t try. Now, I’m always asking questions and asking for clarification, and I can feel myself getting better every day. I’ve even made a close friend at work.
The final hurdle came in the form of getting a new English certification so I could finish my master’s degree here in Canada. It’s a hurdle I’m still working through today. The certification test costs money and studying takes up a lot of time. I work two full-time jobs, being a nurse and being a mother, so finding the hours to work on myself is a unique balancing act. Luckily, it was always my dream to study English, and though it came about in a different way than I thought it would, I’m still living my dream.
Every day brings about new challenges and hurdles, but I feel ready to surpass them. When things get tough, or I start having doubts, I just remember how happy my daughters are. I was afraid that when the excitement of moving to a new country wore off, they would be sad. But to this day, they both wear a smile day in and day out.”
Lamis’ advice for other refugees: “Don’t give up. Always be motivated to work on yourself and improve your situation. I learned here, in Canada, an idiom let’s say; ‘No pain, no gain’. When you move to another country, all the doors are open, and you can improve your life if you work hard for it.”
For more information about Talent Beyond Boundaries, visit https://www.talentbeyondboundaries.org