Stories from 204FM community
by Leila Castro
When the 204FM community formed the 204 Neighbourhood Watch four weeks ago, three women right away connected with me to help me prepare the plan to launch the volunteer group. I met with them at Seven Oaks Immigrant Centre one afternoon, they were so efficient and fast that they completed a well-crafted plan in no time (an indication of their expertise). But more than that, I was amazed by their passion for helping the community. I requested them to share their inspiring stories through this article.
ROWENA MENDOZA SUMAGUI-HERNANDEZ, Settlement Worker at Seven Oaks Immigrant Services
“I was from Tagaytay City and came here in 2009 with my family as immigrants. I was a Professional Social Worker back home and was a graduate from Concordia College where I was a working student. I would say, all my life, I have been involved with helping people and building community. I believe this is my passion and mission.
Having that spirit in my heart and being open, flexible and coachable was the only thing I had when I first landed in Winnipeg. I emerged myself into different free programs and workshops available around the community including volunteering. I worked as a Child Care Worker in Harstone Day Care Centre then became a Group Facilitator and Community Outreach Worker in Pregnancy and Family Services, Inc. Then I accepted an opportunity at Seven Oaks Immigrant Services as a Settlement Worker.
However, I adjusted, and I love being a Settlement Worker. Doing my job meant that I could also share in the Mission of the Church to help Immigrants. I went on the journey with them in their everyday challenges and helped them figure out the way to go forward by providing them with vital information and current trends on how to settle successfully in Manitoba, especially in the City of Winnipeg. I talked to different people from different countries, some just landed, while others were already here for several months or years.
I provide supportive counselling when needed and this creates a stronger connection between my clients and I, especially when I get feedback from kababayans or Filipinos. Seeing Filipino-workers helping them was extremely beneficial since they could express their feelings and share experiences easily, in their own words and expressions, as it is being understood across the culture.
Personally, what I am doing is rewarding, especially when I see people being able to settle and integrate to the new culture and community successfully.
All of us started at one point just the same. We might have all the information and options available for us but it’s still up to us to choose where to go and what to do. It’s like what they say: “One step at a time, every day is a new beginning, be friendly to yourself”. A beautiful butterfly comes from a good cocoon transformation. Let’s become beautiful butterflies and make the world a better place to live and explore.“
ROSELYN ADVINCULA, Social Worker at Immigrant Centre and Aurora Family Therapy Centre
“I came with my family to Winnipeg under the provincial nomination program. My aunt, Justina Ramos, helped and sponsored us. We arrived in 2008.
I was a Social worker back home, and got my accreditation as a Social worker here in Canada. I am currently working at Immigrant Centre and Aurora Family Therapy Centre. I coordinate the Neighbourhood Immigrant Settlement Program.
There are 28 Settlement workers in 10 areas of Winnipeg that works with newcomers to get settled and integrate. At Aurora Family Therapy Centre, I work in the newcomer community development program. I facilitate numerous groups for newcomers like the newcomer coffee club at Children’s museum. I also run groups for other newcomer groups such as the Syrian community and some African communities. I am a volunteer at Filipino Women’s Initiative group, and at Pinays Manitoba which aims to empower women and families in our community. I also volunteer for Philippine Heritage Council of Manitoba.
I experienced and felt how it is like to be in a newcomer’s shoes, but I have been helped and mentored by many great people here, which made the process and experience easier and better.
The many small but impactful gestures shown to me are engrained in my heart and mind as a person forever. And I think that this is what inspires and drives me to work in the field that I am now, working with newcomer settlement in the community. Giving back and paying forward is my motivation.
I feel happy and fulfilled whenever I can contribute to newcomers settlement process here. Even by providing a welcoming and friendly space for everyone, meet other people and share their experiences. I love providing that warmth and smile in their new home as that is what helped me the most in my early years here.
That sense of belonging in a new world helped me get through the struggles of being a newcomer. The power of social networks and community is immeasurable.
More so, one of the things that I love with what I do is raising awareness about important issues that are stigmatized or taboo in our community such as the importance of our mental and emotional well-being. We did sessions around this in the past and introduced it in a respectful and non-threatening way to community members.
I am also into community building. I am thrilled to see when our newcomer participants meet in our programs then start to establish friendships and eventually build community amongst each other. It feels like home to me, wherein, we look after each other, we care for one another and we raise kids as a village.
I want to pave the way for my kids and for the next generations to have a community where they can feel that they belong and that they have a place where they know, they would not feel alone just like what I had back home. I love what I do and It doesn’t feel like work to me.
EMMY LYNN BACANI-TIPAN, Counsellor for Immigrant Women at Norwest Coop
“I came to Canada September 2006 as a provincial nominee. I was a social worker back home and doing project monitoring and disaster management in Mindanao region. I worked survival jobs before going back to school. Through a kababayan who gave me a lot of support and information, I found out about a non-profit organization which financed my hearing-aid and my schooling.
I finished the certificate program called Community Development/Community Economic Development, did my practicum then I was hired at Norwest Coop Community Health as an Immigrant Settlement Worker. My job was to provide information to newcomers on housing, employment, school system, transportation and any other settlement issues. I felt so happy doing my job because I was again connected to the community. The area that I was working with, there were mostly Filipinos. I felt like I was home again.
As a settlement worker for almost 2 years, I did a lot of programs at Norwest Coop Community Health. The programs aimed to help our kababayans to integrate easily. We did a lot of fields trips, first aid training, food handling, job fair, information sessions and more. It was really a fulfilling work for me. I can relate to our kababayans and whenever I’d see them in the community, I felt so proud and happy for them. Now, majority of them are successful, and some of them are working in their field. And, the most fulfilling about this – they became my friends. Doing my job as a settlement worker was not only about cultural adaptation and/or settlement issues. I also heard and encountered a lot of sad stories, including family violence, depression, unexpected death, accidents, disaster back home, etc.
Whenever our distressed kababayans were seeing me, I referred them to our counselling programs at Norwest, as I was not a Social Worker here in Manitoba at that time. Majority of them were reluctant because of shame, fear, uncomfortable feeling, and language barrier.
Because of that, I decided to get my social work accreditation here in MB. Thanks to Roselyn Advincula for showing me the steps all through out. By fall of 2010, I became a counsellor for immigrant women.
Now I provide counseling and support for women experiencing overwhelming emotion due to traumatic events, cultural adaptations and family violence. I also do a lot of wellness group for immigrant women for them to acquire awareness and learn new skills on family violence, stress management, mental health, and self-care.
This spring, Norwest Coop Community Health is having a pilot project for Filipinos that have prominent involvement in our community. We are providing a free 3-day training Psychological First-Aid and Family Violence. We aim to provide new skills to our participants and for them to appreciate the importance of providing psychological First aid in the aftermath of family violence and unexpected overwhelming events. We are really hoping to connect with our kababayans who are needing support. Lastly, I’m also doing a few volunteering and support for our community, including the welcoming newcomer family events.”
Happiness for these women is not only about material gain, but more on being able to share themselves in improving the community. We are proud that that there are community resources, leaders and movers that we can count on in the Filipino Community, like these women. They chose to work with people, and they embrace them regardless of what stage they are in their journey as newcomers. They empower them as a person to become one who might also choose to emulate their works as a community resource. For Rowena, Roselyn and Emmy Lynn, this is their joy and they feel fulfilled doing it. If you need to access them, you are always welcome to call and be connected. Their emails: Rowena – firstname.lastname@example.org, Roselyn – email@example.com, Emmy Lynn – firstname.lastname@example.org.