Roya and Sean moved to Canada in June 2014. Both volunteered as Library Champions at the West Vancouver Memorial Library. I asked them if they’d be willing to share their journey and they agreed. Reading their responses, I am grateful for their honesty, transparency, and tenacity.
Tell me about your decision to move to Canada.
We had a few options: Canada, Australia or New Zealand. After doing a lot of research we chose Canada. We were looking to find a place for our kids to grow with more security, better education, and no pollution where they could live a happy and healthy life. We moved to Canada for us as well – we wanted to be able to enjoy watching our children grow and enjoy being together and doing activities together as a family as this is was not possible in our country. For instance, my husband could never watch my daughter in her swimming classes as men are not allowed at women’s facilities.
Why did you choose the community you’re currently living in?
We knew that Vancouver had the best weather compared to other cities in Canada and we chose North Vancouver, as there are many Iranians and Iranian shops here. This was helpful for us with adapting and getting used to living in a foreign country and made us feel less homesick. There are great schools in North Vancouver and it is very child friendly.
How long did it take you to discover your library?
At first, we knew nothing about the library. We didn’t know if you had to show a card when entering the library or if we were able to just walk in. We asked a few friends and eventually saw a few flyers about libraries and, after doing some research decided to visit the library. When we went we were asked for identification to register but we were still waiting for this. Once our identification was mailed to us we were able to register.
What has been the most useful service of the library for you?
The best service for us was being connected to the Library Champions project. This project has helped us extremely. We have more confidence, we’ve connected with the community, we have done things that we never thought we could do, such as outreach and talking to strangers to inform them of the library and the services there. We felt like we belonged somewhere and we had something to look forward to. It also gave us such pleasure to feel that you we were helping immigrants just like us get settled a bit easier by knowing what facilities and resources they have at the library.
Are you working in the career you had when you left your country?
No. We are still looking for work and have decided to continue our studies to find a good job in Vancouver.
Explain what steps that it took you to make this decision.
We first decided to look for jobs in our fields of expertise, but had no luck. We then found out through the information we gained from a session at the Library Champions Project of an organization called ISSofBC that offers a Skills Connect Program for professional and experienced immigrants. We went there and, after meeting certain requirements, such as enough experience in a professional field and English knowledge, we were accepted. We are currently enrolled in this program. Here, we have participated in different workshops: soft skills, interview skills, cover letter and resume writing, job search essentials and LinkedIn.
What was the biggest challenge for you in transitioning to life in Canada?
We would definitely say finding a job.
What do you wish you had known prior to moving here?
We wish we had know that it’s very difficult finding a job in Canada, especially when you have no Canadian experience.
Do you feel like you belong to your community?
We totally feel this and the reason is we have two kids. Our daughter is in school and wanted to have play dates and see her friends so we had no choice but to connect with parents and have them come over. This led to us becoming friends with the parents and now we see each other even without our kids. If we hadn’t had this, we are sure it would have been very difficult for us to connect with the community and we would have been stuck in the Persian Community.
You volunteered as Library Champions. Tell me about this experience.
This was one of the best experiences of our lifetime. The best thing for us was getting to know Helene, the facilitator. She was absolutely fantastic and taught us so much about libraries and the great things offered there. She also taught us about life of Canadians as well.
Libraries in Iran are mostly used by students in higher education and don’t offer other services. We knew nothing about libraries here and we were amazed of the wide range of offerings. We learned that the libraries offer workshops and also free activities for families and kids of all ages, such as playtime and concerts. The things that were very new and interesting for us were the search engines available for job searches, and different workshops available to learn how to search for jobs which is crucial for immigrants. We also discovered that we were able to use Lynda.com for free, which is a wonderful opportunity. We felt that we belonged more to the community as we had something to offer.
During our meetings with Helene, we learned about the different ways of doing outreach and appropriate ways to do this outreach. We could help other immigrants just like us have an easier process in adapting to their new lives in Canada. We got the chance to talk to a lot of people and become friends with a lot of them, which was a great way to increase our network.
What is your favourite thing about where you live?
We love being here because it’s a small community and we know a lot of people. When we go out, we have everything we need around us: parks, libraries, shopping, coffee shops, community center and more. Our daughter’s school is absolutely fantastic with a lot of great families and kids going there. My daughter will grow up and be around kids that are from great working class families that work hard to earn a decent living for themselves. We also have a perfect ratio of Persians/ Canadians in our community.
What person or organization helped you the most in transitioning to life in Canada?
We had a great family friend who helped us a lot in our first few weeks in Canada and after that I would say the best place for us was the library. The library offered a place where our kids could have fun, connect with other kids, play, listen to stories, read books and color, and in turn, this helped us talk to people and get to know others in our community and learn their way of life.
What advice would you give to others who are considering a move to Canada?
Do a lot of research and have back up savings as finding a job can be very challenging. Also think of what you want from your life and consider what you want to gain from your move – with this in mind choose the place community or city that is the best fit.
What do you miss most about your home country?
Definitely the love and support we received from our family and friends, our family gatherings and also the great taste of food cooked by our beloved mothers.
If you’re interested in becoming a Library Champion, we are looking for new volunteers. Find out more: http://newtobc.ca/newcomer-resources/library-champions-training-schedule/