This World Refugee Day – We Commend the Stories of Resilience, Determination, and the Power of Community Support

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World Refugee Day was established by the United Nations in 2001 in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. It is a day to honour and celebrate the strength of refugees.

YWCA Hamilton’s JOIN Immigration and Settlement program recognizes that newcomer women, youth and gender-diverse people may face additional barriers to settlement when arriving in a new community. The goal of the JOIN Program is to support them in settlement – in every way possible.

One such person is Monica, a devoted mother of two daughters who embarked on a courageous journey from Colombia to Canada in pursuit of refugee protection for her family. Upon arriving in Canada, Monica was faced with the challenge of finding the right professional opportunity to use her skills, contribute to her new community, and provide for herself and her daughters.

Despite her background as a psychologist, Monica found herself limited to cleaning jobs—a stark departure from her professional training and experience. However, Monica’s spirit remained unbroken as she was determined to pursue her career path and make a meaningful contribution to her new community.

Recognizing the importance of aligning her employment with her expertise, particularly in a field involving work with children, Monica sought support from YWCA Hamilton’s Newcomer Employment Counsellors. Through their assistance and participating in relevant workshops, Monica tailored her resume and reconstructed her cover letters. She prepared for interviews through mock coaching sessions, ensuring she was well-equipped for the competitive job market.

Monica’s journey took a significant turn when she secured a position as an Educational Assistant with the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board. This opportunity not only marked a step towards a new career in Canada but also served as a testament to her unwavering determination.

Reflecting on her journey, Monica shared heartfelt gratitude towards those at YWCA Hamilton who supported her along the way. She expressed, “I want to express through my words – two feelings that invade me. One is an infinite feeling that I have because it fulfills a dream…which is to return to work at what I did in my country. The other feeling is total gratitude to my Employment Counselor, Lina Cardozo who always encouraged me to never give up. I thank Lissette and Titi because they were my additional support when I needed preparation for my interview. They are not only my support in terms of interviews, but also emotional support.”

Monica’s story exemplifies the transformative impact of tailored support and guidance in helping refugees and newcomers navigate the complexities of the Canadian job market. It serves as a reminder of the resilience and determination that characterize many refugee and newcomers’ journeys, as well as the vital role of community support in facilitating their integration and success.

As we commemorate World Refugee Day, let us celebrate stories like Monica’s and reaffirm our commitment to fostering inclusive and supportive environments where newcomers can thrive, contribute, and build new beginnings.

YWCA Hamilton’s JOIN Immigration and Settlement program is available to permanent residents, protected person/convention refugees, live-in caregivers with approved work permits, Ukrainian CUAET Holders, Gazans on Temporary Resident Visa (TRV). Interested principal applicants must identify as women, girls, gender diverse or non-binary. JOIN staff members speak and are able to support clients in the following languages: Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Arabic, Spanish, Somali, Ukrainian, Russian, Farsi, Dari, Pashto and Yoruba.

To learn more about the services and supports available for newcomers, visit our JOIN Immigration and Settlement program.

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