Settling in Canada Makes Unsettling Times for Newcomer Women

For newcomer women and their families, Toronto can be a city where there are many good things such as hope for a better life and new chances for work, learning and recreation. But Toronto can also be a city where there are difficult things. Doubt, fear, and a sense of helplessness can be completely overwhelming. Not knowing how to do very many things, like going to the bank or using the TTC.

At Newcomer Women Services (NEW), we can support you with both the good things and the difficult things.

Enkeleda's family had come from Albania, where her son had always been happy. But in Toronto his happiness changed to sadness.

"He couldn't speak English and it was really difficult for him to meet other children and express himself…he was sad and lonely for a long time," Enkeleda said.

But when Enkeleda came to NEW she could study English upstairs while her son was downstairs, meeting other children, playing games and learning.

Although he was shy at first, Enkeleda's son became comfortable with the other children and started taking part in activities that helped him learn English. Enkeleda was so relieved when she saw how her child's loneliness and sadness was going away.

Improving their language skills can make a big difference for newcomer women and their families. Doubt and fear start to disappear, while hope and enjoyment become stronger.

Like Enekelda, Jane had difficulties speaking English after she came from China. She said, "I was so proud the day I could go to the bank without having my husband to translate for me."

After her English improved, Jane became a volunteer at NEW. Later, NEW was able to offer Jane a job, working as a childminder. In this way, Jane was able to help other women, like Enkeleda and her son.

Just as learning English makes their lives easier, newcomer women need a chance to meet with other women, so they do not feel alone and helpless.

Each Saturday morning, NEW welcomes clients and their children for a special time. We dance, we share music and films, we create art and do crafts, we cook different foods, and we explore Toronto, so we can see the many opportunities for hope and enjoyment that our new home offers us. And we realize, once again, that we can all help each other, no matter where we have come from.

When Emiliya and her family arrived from Bulgaria, they knew very few people in Toronto, and had a difficult time until they found a basement apartment. But they were far from the TTC and they had no car, so it was difficult to shop for food. With our support, Emiliya was able to find better housing and she learned to use the TTC to find better places for shopping.

NEW also offers information on health, legal, and security issues, and can provide answers to many questions that newcomer women have.

Yet the biggest challenge is still there: finding a job. This challenge is the most demanding of all. Every newcomer woman has so many responsibilities: tight budgets, family tensions, children's needs, shopping, cooking, cleaning, and never enough time.

And yet, as she prepares to find a job, every newcomer woman is expected to be well-dressed, well-spoken, well-mannered and smart. There is no room for frustrations, or even simple physical exhaustion. And there are always those questions: Where do I start my job-search? What do I do first? Who can give me advice about the Toronto job market?

When Daniella arrived from a small town in Romania, she was overwhelmed by the size and complexity of Toronto. And then, "NEW helped me a lot to improve my English and now, after six months, I have a job in the field I want to have a career in. I like Toronto very much because I know that I have a lot of options and can do whatever I want. That's why I came to Canada."

At NEW we assist newcomer women to find either paid employment or volunteer placements. Just like Daniella, 70 percent of the women who use the employment program at NEW find paid work within six months of completing the program.

Newcomer Women Services have been helping women like Enekelda, Jane, Daniella and Emiliya, for 20 years. We are here for you in the good times and the difficult moments; when you are in tears or smiling; when you suffer your frustration or celebrate your success.

We cherish you and your families because, for many years, we have seen the many good things you have brought to our city, our country, and, most of all, to our future.

For more information about Newcomer Women's Services Toronto visit the website at www.newcomerwomen.org or call (416) 469-0196.

CNM