Immigrating: S.U.C.C.E.S.S. BC - Helping Immigrants Find Success in a New Land

By Lin Wang

Kanako Heinrichs, a Japanese immigrant who moved to Canada in 2007, struggled to find a job and adapt to Canadian life. For assistance, she turned to S.U.C.C.E.S.S. (www.successbc.ca), one of the largest social service organizations in British Columbia. It worked with her to leverage her skills and experiences, helping her launch the Queensberry Flower Company, a business that sells Japanese-style flower arrangements. Her shop is booming and she hopes to begin a chain of stores in different skytrain stations across Vancouver.

Kanako is one of the thousands of immigrants that S.U.C.C.E.S.S. has helped since it was founded in 1973. Currently, over 3000 volunteers with diverse cultural backgrounds work together to provide a wide range of programs. At each service centre, new arrivals can apply for affordable housing, job seekers can join employment programs, and families can take workshops on parenting and relationships. Seniors can participate in the Seniors Quality of Life Outreach Project, which provides recreational and educational activities ranging from computer classes to outdoor trips to cultural celebrations, helping them overcome isolation and keep in touch with the changing times. Whether you are just preparing to leave your home country or applying for citizenship, S.U.C.C.E.S. can help you make the most out of your Canadian life.

Introduction to Canadian Life

The preparation for immigration begins before you set foot on Canadian soil. Taking this into account, S.U.C.C.E.S.S. has set up service centres overseas in Taipei, Taiwan and Seoul, Korea to offer pre-departure sessions and provide resources. You can learn about health care, employment, education, and other aspects of Canadian life, as well as speak with Integration Counsellors to address any concerns or questions.

Most immigrants enter BC through the Vancouver International Airport. Once you arrive, you are greeted by the Community Airport Newcomers Network (C.A.N.N.) situated in the immigration landing room of the international arrivals area.

“We serve over 40,000 people arriving in the airport each year,” comments Mr. Tam, the Chief Executive Officer of S.U.C.C.E.S.S. “We offer a range of programs for new Canadians from Asia, Middle East, Africa, and Europe. We provide them a short orientation to help them get through customs and also tell them about services available at their destination… I think the best thing we can do is to promote the well-being of new Canadians.”

The network operates daily from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m and provides you with resources to help you obtain a Social Insurance Number, medical insurance, and housing, addressing your immediate needs and challenges. After you leave the airport, there are twenty S.U.C.C.E.S.S. service locations in the lower mainland and Fort St. John that you can visit for more information and assistance.

Overcome the Language Barrier

It is difficult to adapt to a new life in British Columbia and communicate with others if you do not speak English. S.U.C.C.E.S.S. hosts the English Language Services for Adults (ELSA), a government-funded program especially designed for newcomers. When you first arrive, you can receive an assessment of your English and then take adult English classes at your level.

In addition, S.U.C.C.E.S.S. offers professional translation and interpretation services in more than twelve languages, including Arabic, Cantonese, Farsi, Filipino, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin, Punjabi, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese. Interpreters can help you communicate during court hearings, medical examinations, and meetings. Furthermore, if you need assistance understanding a letter, educational pamphlet, school report card, certificate, or business contract, translators are available to translate documents to your native language.

Employment & Financial Workshops

After arriving in Canada, many immigrants have concerns regarding work. Mr. Tam acknowledges the career challenges faced by newcomers and explains that S.U.C.C.E.S.S. addresses these issues through its programs.

“People first want to get a survival job. We have job listings. We provide them with initial employment counselling and assessment. We help them to understand their abilities and qualifications, how they match with Canadian employers’ expectations.”

At the employment centres, there are career workshops that you can attend to learn how to write resumes and cover letters, as well as gain tips on job searches and interview preparation. The S.U.C.C.E.S.S. website also provides resources on the Canadian labour market. For example, you can enter an occupation and geographic area into the Working in Canada Tool to learn about opportunities, average wages, and job qualifications. The tool allows you to compare jobs and locations, providing you with the necessary information to make long-term career and settlement plans.

Furthermore, newcomers accepted for permanent residency can take a Financial Literary Workshop to gain insight into the Canadian Financial System. In ten sessions, you will learn to manage your finances, acquire information about different banking services, take steps towards establishing a credit, explore investment options, and pay income tax.

Mentorship Programs

Last but not least, S.U.C.C.E.S.S. operates mentorship programs that connect you with volunteer residents who help you conquer cultural shock, adapt to your new life, and encourage you to participate in community affairs.

In the Host Program, immigrant families are matched with local hosts, many who are experienced immigrants wishing to share their knowledge and guide newcomers. The host and immigrants participate in social, educational, and recreational activities together for six months. Through the program, newcomers meet people who faced similar challenges and share their cultural backgrounds. In addition, they have a valuable opportunity to practice their English language skills, learn about the Canadian culture, and form life-changing friendships.

If you are a newcomer seeking guidance in career and personal development, you can also participate in the Host Mentoring Program. You will work with a professional mentor with a similar occupation for three months, who will give you tips about the Canadian workplace culture and career training. You will learn how to best use your skills and previous experiences to work towards your goals, as well as receive opportunities to network with employers in your field.

The programs introduced here represent a selection of the services offered by S.U.C.C.E.S.S. You can visit S.U.C.C.E.S.S. online or in-person to find programs and resources that best suit your individual needs.