Martina utilized Jumpstart’s mentorship and Refugee Talent Hub program. Arriving in Canada with her children and with hopes for a fresh start, she describes some of her experiences in an interview with us. This is her story!  

“At the very beginning, that fear of the unknown was there. Moving to a new place, new society, new environment – with children! It came with its challenges but of course there was some support for our confidence. Making Canada home brought a lot of peace – which means to say that there was obviously something that made us leave my home country. It wasn’t as if we decided or wanted to leave intentionally, but life happened.  

I am a very independent, focussed, and determined person. But all of that in a new environment became very different for me because I was coming from another environment where I was independent and had a career. When you come here, it’s like starting all afresh, starting all over again. 

I was in a shelter for 3 months when I first came [to Canada]. The experience wasn’t a very good one because I didn’t get the kind of support, I would’ve expected from the shelter system, especially with accommodation [] I also want to be self-sufficient, settled and accommodated. There was pressure in the shelter to move out. How do you move away when you don’t have a job? When landlords are asking for pay stubs, credit history and co-signers? Where will you get a co-signer from when you don’t know anybody.  

I learned about the programs available for newcomers like myself and said “wow, okay!”. I registered and it was a good experience because I attended several workshops, learned about work ethics, and navigating the system. This is where I made my first contact with Jumpstart Refugee Talent 

Jumpstart guided me on how to link with employers. As a newcomer, I had no connections, both social and professional, which is very important. Fine! These connections open doors for you, but you also have to put in a lot of work to get the job.  Be focussed, define your goals and develop plans to achieve them.  Sign up with organizations like Jumpstart. Most importantly, get mentors and coaches 

I had a mentor from Jumpstart. He would ask about me, how am I doing, I thought it had to be professional, but he was concerned about me. “If you are not doing well, how can I help you?”, he asked me. I actually broke down because there were a lot of things going on. Getting someone who is willing to listen to me was important to me. Then he became more supportive and knew how to manage and support me.  

My outlook for the future is to create an impact, mentor people – newcomers! Also, people of color and women. I’m very passionate about social causes and issues. I want to continue working in the social services. Getting my role as an executive director at Impakt Foundation, I’m very proud of that. [Also], the additional qualifications and certifications that I’ve been able to gain… It’s a long list (laughs), since I came to Canada. Owing to my certificate with Toronto paramedics, I was happy to be chosen from a group to demonstrate to Deputy Mayor, Michael Thompson. 

[It’s important to] create employment opportunities, financial literacy for newcomers because they don’t know about the Canadian financial sector and all the requirements. I didn’t know anything about it. It is something that can hinder your decisions. Organizations should not just talk about diversity and inclusion but also making sure there’s equity and some sort of monitoring to make sure it is implemented.