From a Loan Recipient:
"I am really thankful and grateful with the IAF because these are people who believed in me even if they didn’t know me. They just want to give me hope and I recommend this organization to all the immigrants who are losing their hope. There is always a light in the street and IAF is a ight."
Pharmacist realizes dreamPosted: December 13, 2012
Abiodun Adebayo Lawal is fulfilling his lifelong dream to live in Canada and practise his profession as a pharmacist. His path in pursuit of the dream started in Nigeria, traversed three continents and tested his ambition. There were times when he despaired.
“Sometimes late at night in the library, coming to Canada seemed like an adventure that should not have been taken,” Abiodun says.
In Nigeria, Abiodun worked for an international pharmaceutical company. He applied to immigrate to Canada, but the process proved difficult and long. He and his wife went to England where Abiodun studied for his Masters of Drug Delivery Science. While there, their immigration papers came through. Abiodun completed his studies and in October 2009 the family, expanded to include two children, headed to Calgary to begin their new life.
“We fell in love with Calgary,” Abiodun says. His wife had a job waiting for her; Abiodun took a part-time position as a customer service representative at Walmart and began pursuing his Canadian credentials. He found a bridging program for internationally trained pharmacists that he knew would be helpful to his Canadian career. But it was expensive and because his wife worked, Abiodun only qualified for partial funding.
“Even if you have a clear idea of how you can proceed on your path, if you have no funds you will not move from where you are” Abiodun muses. “And it is very difficult getting funds when you are new to the country. You have no credit history, no job and no guarantee you will pay back the loan.”
He heard about IAF through the bridging program. After meeting with a loan facilitator, setting his budget and determining the funds required, Abiodun secured the loan, which he used for living expenses, books and other training-related costs.
“The loan allowed me to focus on my studies without the distraction of a second job and financial stress,” Abiodun says.Read More
Doctor finds welcome at IAFPosted: December 13, 2012
Elena Kumar was just making ends meet as her husband, Amit, completed his residency in South Africa. The couple immigrated to Edmonton in 2009 and survived on Elena’s income as a clinical aid at a Medicentre. Then Elena had an opportunity to write a critical professional exam, which required that she reduce her work hours in order to study — and shell out a hefty exam fee of $2,000, too much for the couple’s tight budget to accommodate.
“Sometimes it becomes really tough,” Elena says. In Russia, she had already completed her residency and a Masters degree in internal medicine, but those credentials are not recognized in Canada. “You don’t know how much hope you have of succeeding. And you don’t need financial stress on top of the stress going through exams, dealing with the licensing issues and unpredictable changes in rules about qualifications, and all of the other obstacles that block your way.”
IAF came to Elena’s rescue — and not just with the loan that covered the exam fee.
“I’m very glad IAF exists,” Elena enthuses. “All of the people I met there were so friendly and welcoming to international medical graduates, like me. They helped me with every step of the application — writing it, figuring out income and outputs and presenting it. I really appreciate the welcome I received there.”
Now, Amit is working as a doctor in Edmonton and Elena, having passed her exam, is working as a clinical assistant in the Royal Alexandra Hospital. Because of the long waits and intense competition for residency positions in Alberta, plus the time and expense, Elena plans to assess carefully whether she will pursue her doctor’s license, or whether she will stay on in her current position. “It’s a very good position,” she says. “I feel that I’ve already accomplished a lot. We are settled and I want to keep working in Edmonton and buy a house. Then, hopefully, having children will be the next step.”Read More
Newcomer reaches for the skyPosted: December 13, 2012
Almost immediately after he finished his project management certification at Grant MacEwan University, Magnus Saramago got a job that launched his professional career in Canada. He works as a project manager for a large camp services and accommodation company.
He says the education, which he was able to complete partly because he received a loan from IAF, probably cut down by two years the time it would take him to get a job in his field.
“I’m a confident, well educated man,” says Magnus, who holds a Law degree and a Masters in Business Administration from Brazil. “But having this certification made me more comfortable competing in the Canadian job market and it certainly expedited the process of getting a good job.”
Magnus arrived in Edmonton in May 2010 with his wife and their two children. In Brazil, he managed a large franchise and the family lived comfortably. But he and his wife wanted their children to have more opportunity and security than Brazil could provide. They chose Edmonton because of its social stability and favourable economic situation. Magnus knew there was a shortage of skilled professionals in Edmonton and has stepped in to fill that gap.
“My immediate goal is to try to get a position similar to what I had in Brazil,” Magnus says. “For the midterm, I know I need to gain more Canadian experience to get an upper managerial position in an organization.”
He says the IAF loan is a good vehicle to get newcomers like him back into the job market as soon as possible and he recommends it to others. “You are able to manage your life while you are studying, so you can commit to the program and choose your own course. Then, the sky’s the limit.”Read More
Career and life goals on trackPosted: December 13, 2012
Every morning Muhammad Rehman wakes up at 6 a.m. to prepare for his full day of family, work and study. He does so with his focus clearly levelled on living a better life with more security and a more promising future — the same aspiration he had when he emigrated from Pakistan to Canada in June 2010.
“The system and the laws are fair in Canada,” Muhammad says. “In our country, we fear the police. Here it is not like that.” The promise of Canada inspires Muhammad to push forward to attain his dreams.
From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. he works in his contract position as an accountant at the Saskatchewan Workman’s Compensation Board in Regina. It’s a substantial advance towards his goal and a critical step in his pursuit to gain Canadian experience while he studies to complete his CGA (Chartered General Accountant) accreditation. Since arriving in Saskatoon from Toronto in 2011 Muhammad has had one short-term accounting contract and part-time positions. This contract will last several months.
After work Muhammad goes home to spend time with his wife and their three-year-old son before settling in for another two hours of studying. He often studies on weekends too. If he can continue at this pace, Muhammad will have his CGA designation in about three years.
He thought he would have to delay his education when banks repeatedly refused his loan applications because he didn’t have a guarantor. When workers at the Open Door Society in Saskatoon suggested that Muhammad was a good candidate for an IAF loan, he wasted no time in applying.
“Now I am on track to complete my designation,” he says. “I will be able to find further work and develop my skills and advance my professional position.”
Muhammad is also on track to achieving the life he dreamt of when he left his home to come to Canada.Read More
New Canadian on path to fulfill callingPosted: August 29, 2011
At times, over the last seven years Dr. Adriana Guillen despaired in her new life in Canada. She and her husband, Armando, left Mexico City in 2004 because they wanted more security and a better life for their two children.
The kids are happy and Adriana is happy to see them enrolled in a French immersion school. But what surprised Adriana were the difficulties she had settling into her new life.
A practicing dentist in Mexico City, Adriana didn’t speak English and couldn’t find childcare in her first Canadian home in Waterloo, Ontario. Opportunities to become a dentist were limited as each year only a handful of candidates out of many were selected to study for Canadian credentials.
“We had to struggle financially and I felt I had no hope of ever working in my field again,” she recalls. “I wasn’t prepared for the cold and the isolation of being a stay-at-home mom. I lost hope and I wanted to go back to Mexico.”
Then in 2007 the family moved to Calgary to be closer to a recently arrived relative. Armando got a job in his field and they bought a house. Adriana saw another vision of Canada.
“We had started all over again and I needed to do something,” she says. She took survival jobs to help finance her studies to become a dental assistant. She received her qualifications and to her dismay, she didn’t like the job.
Meanwhile, the rules to qualify as a dentist in Canada had become less onerous. It would take two years of study, some of it away from her family; several demanding exams; and substantial financial outlay to accomplish. Adriana was determined to try.
“I was not happy professionally,” she says. “I couldn’t live knowing that I hadn’t even tried.” Initially, Adriana continued working. But her studies were too demanding. That’s when she found out about IAF and applied for a loan.
“I could not have undertaken this process without the loan,” she says. “Now I have a chance to work as a dentist. It is my calling.” Adriana hopes to work with new Canadians, especially the Latin community.
“They don’t speak the language and they will need a dentist who can understand them. And I can offer lower prices so people without insurance can afford the proper care,” she says.
“I want this loan to make a difference not just to my family, but to have an impact on the health of many people.”Read More
Investment yields experience and promising futurePosted: August 29, 2011
Walters Munde left his position as agricultural supervisor for Del Monte Foods in Cameroon to immigrate to Canada in March 2008. The 40 year old came with a dream of a better life for his wife and six-month-old daughter. Friends had spoken to him about the opportunities he would have to develop a career and live well in Canada.
But when Walters arrived he found no employment in his field in spite of his masters in agriculture from Sierra Leon and his masters in environmental sciences from Belgium. He worked as a round-the-clock security officer, alternating shifts with Petula. They earned $12 per hour.
Walters wanted to continue on a professional career path and recognized he needed Canadian credentials to do that. He sought funding and found the Immigrant Access Fund at the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers. He received a $10,000 loan, which allowed him to pursue accreditation as an environmental practitioner program with Eco Canada.
While studying, he received a contract offer from a First Nations organization to work as an environmental technician for its technical services advisory group. The contract ended in August and now Walters is set up to pursue a 10-month-long program in oil and gas administration at CDI College in Edmonton.
“With my environmental background, I will find employment in the oil and gas sector that has the potential to pay a decent salary,” Walters says. He underlines that the support from IAF gave him the start he needed when he came to Canada.
“It’s helped give my family and me hope for a better future,” he says. “I feel more confident applying for jobs because the loan helped with the training and work experience I needed to establish myself in this new country. It’s changed my life.”Read More
Optimism, opportunities and effort yield success in new landPosted: May 31, 2011
Cristina Popescu describes herself as a “glass-half-full” person. She has remained optimistic through the huge changes that occurred when she uprooted herself from her home in Romania to immigrate to Canada with her husband, Cosmin.
Cristina had worked for 10 years as a schoolteacher and she wanted to follow the same path in her new life in Canada. The couple based their decision to come to Alberta on the province’s Transitions to Alberta Classrooms program. The bridging program prepares immigrant teachers with international experience for certification by providing practicum experience, English language instruction and other theoretical and practical learning.
Based on her Romanian transcripts, Cristina required an additional 13 courses to meet Alberta certification requirements. She diligently completed all of the requirements while holding down two part-time jobs as a tutor at private learning centres.
“I didn’t mind the long hours of studying or the hard work,” Cristina says. “But it got expensive.” The six-month-long practicum came with a price tag of $5,000 and Cristina would need to cut back her working hours.
“My husband could support us financially for the remaining courses,” she says. “But $5,000 at one time was quite a challenge.” She found out about IAF through Transitions to Alberta Classrooms and nervously applied for her first loan ever.
“I was nervous because I was taught not to borrow money for anything,” she says. “But it was good because it helped me at a really critical time and I’m paying it off.”
Three years since arriving in Canada, Cristina is on the cusp of completing her Alberta teacher’s certification. Eventually, she would like to teach in a public school. For now, she is happy where she is. Cristina works at Momentum, teaching math and science to students in the trades program, qualifying for SAIT programs. She and Cosmin are expecting their first child in August.
“We’ve struggled with low paying jobs since coming to Canada, but now we have good work in our fields and we own a house,” she says. “I believe we came to the right province at the right time. With the right opportunities and hard work we’ve been able to build our life here."
Cristina adds that the generousity of individuals and organizations like IAF has been unexpected and very helpful in her success.
“Canadians are accepting and welcoming to immigrants,” she says. “Even though my parents and my relatives are not with me, I feel at home here.”
Cristina’s way of giving back to Canada is to volunteer at the Integrated Women’s Mentorship Program at Immigrant Services Calgary, helping other immigrant women in their job search and integration into Canadian culture.Read More
Eye to better future motivation for educationPosted: August 29, 2011
The journey from Mexico City to Edmonton and all the readjustment necessary to survive in a new country was one that Victor Manuel Duran Jimenez gladly made, even though he left a good position as a project manager for one of the world’s largest food distribution companies where he managed international and domestic accounts.
The job market in Mexico is increasingly youth focused and the 44-year-old IT consultant knew his days as a desired worker were numbered. That was only one of the considerations that prompted Victor, his wife, Gabriela and their 8-year-old son, Adrian, to come to Canada.
“Mexico City has 34 million residents,” he says. “It’s overcrowded and security is an issue. I didn’t want my son growing up there.”
Victor arrived in Edmonton in April 2010. He held a bachelor in computer science and a master in finance, which he earned in Mexico. When the family was settled, Gabriela enrolled in an ESL program and Victor, whose English was already excellent, took courses to improve his command of the language.
That completed, he began looking for a job and found out that he required a Canadian project management certificate to be qualified to work in his field. He chose to take Grant MacEwan University’s four-month Project Management Program. He’s also taking extra courses for international project management certification.
Victor learned about the Immigrant Access Fund through his wife’s ESL program, applied and received the loan.
“IAF has allowed me to complete the program and to meet other professional Canadians who have introduced me to job opportunities,” he says. “The learning and the networking provide me with a huge advantage.” Victor says potential employers are responding more favourably to his job applications since he has been enrolled in the program.Read More
Taking steps to live a normal life in CanadaPosted: August 29, 2011
Ebenezer Asare is working his way through exams, courses, internships and classes for provincial and federal regulators to achieve his goal of simply “living a normal life in Canada.”
Ebenezer is a pharmacist. He took six years of university to receive his bachelor in pharmacy in Kumasi, Ghana, and worked as a pharmacist in Accra for three years before love led him to Canada. The 30 year old came to Edmonton in August 2009 to be with his wife, Sylvia.
When Ebenezer arrived in Canada, he submitted his credentials from Ghana to the federally regulated Pharmacy Examining Board and wrote a series of exams, including English proficiency and evaluations of his pharmaceutical knowledge.
That completed successfully, Ebenezer is working toward becoming a registered pharmacist in Alberta. For that, he needs to study further and complete a practicum that involves 1,000 hours of volunteer time in a pharmacy under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist.
He enrolled in the Bredin Institute, where he could take a 10-month program for international pharmacists and find a pharmacist willing to oversee his practicum and help him prepare for his exams. He will be tested on the skills he learned during the practicum and on his classroom learning. Ebenezer hopes to get his license in May 2011.
“Since I’ve come to Canada, I haven’t worked,” Ebenezer says. “It’s not only the studying. Pharmacies are much more patient focused here and I need the experience.”
Meanwhile he and Sylvia have a six-month-old son. With his wife on maternity leave, Ebenezer needed funding to pay exam fees and to make ends meet. He was grateful to find the Immigrant Access Fund, which unlike micro loans elsewhere, allows borrowers to use funds to offset living costs.
“It really helped,” he says. “It’s allowed me to concentrate on my studies and given me hope that I will practice as a pharmacist in Alberta. I don’t think that’s too far fetched.”Read More