Newcomers: We Struggle Now, For A Better Future!

by Teenaz Javat

I was 27 years old when I came to Canada with my husband and 8 month-old- daughter.
Ten years later with two kids in elementary school, I decided to get back into the world of paid labour. In those ten years I became an expert at cooking, cleaning and washing, all of which I soon realized, did not lend themselves to raising the depleted levels in my bank account.

But there was one thing I did not give up, I was determined that one day I would claim back my life the way I knew it to be. I was a journalist in India and Pakistan before deciding to immigrate to Canada in 1997.

Soon we discovered that a two-income family was not for us, as daycare for two kids would eat up a huge chunk of one’s after-tax income.

Getting back to work seemed bleaker than ever, as in the time I had stayed home media had changed a great deal. The dissemination of news as I knew it, had leapt out of the pages of a newspaper and onto the internet.

I soon figured that I needed a re-education. My 1992 Master’s degree from a university in India seemed old and dated.

After a bit of creative budgeting and with the help of scholarships and bursaries, I went back to school full time. I was admitted into the Canadian Journalism for Internationally Trained Writers Program at Sheridan Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, Oakville, Ontario.

The program is a bridge course that accepts foreign trained journalists and trains them in the culture, protocols and laws that govern all aspects of the Canadian media (print, broadcast and online). For the students to succeed, Sheridan College made some changes to the program.

“Just as we were starting to put the finishing touches I realized a lot of students who had enrolled, were either working or had family commitments,” says Professor Joyce Wayne program coordinator at Sheridan College. “So, in consultation with the Dean and our faculty we decided to run the program over four weekday evenings and the weekend.”

“The level of commitment that I found in all students, particularly from the women who had young families, was tremendous. Seeing their desire to take on this challenge, we even made concessions to allow women to bring in their kids to class on Saturdays, as we appreciate that day care on weekends is unaffordable for many,” says Wayne.

“For a lot of women age was a factor that bothered them. In my case it was the last chance I had to upgrade my education and I was not going to lose it,” says Tazeen Rizvi, a mother of three teenagers, who came to Canada with over 10 years of experience working as a copy editor in Pakistan’s largest English language newspaper.

As assignments started piling up and deadlines loomed, some students who had part time day-jobs would either work late into the night or early in the morning.

“My son had just started full-day school, so every minute that he was away I spent towards finishing my school work,” says Rita Simone who lives in the High Park area of Toronto. “I also studied on the long commute from my home to Sheridan College, as it seemed there was not a minute to spare,” adds Simone who came to Canada from Brazil.

However, for Lily Suntoke, a mother-of-two and a student of Art and Design at Sheridan, waiting for her two kids to go to full day school was not an option. “I do not want to stay out of work for too long, as every day that I am not working I feel it will take me that much longer to get back.”
Suntoke worked as a textile designer before she came to Canada from Mumbai, India. She never found a job in her field and has worked in several survival jobs over the past 10 years.
“I am prepared to put in the hours and the commitment required of full-time school to get back to doing what I love. The struggle now will have rich dividends for me later on. At least that is my hope.”

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