From newcomer LINC students to registered early childhood educators
By: Vivian Nguyen
Published on: March 06 2023
Starting over in another country is not an easy task. In most cases, immigrants have to learn a new language, make new friends, find a new job, and get used to a new environment. Immigration organizations like the Newcomer Centre of Peel (NCP) provide services and resources to help newcomers develop and achieve their settlement goals.
Along with programs like English Training, Employment services, and counselling, NCP delivers programming for different newcomer age groups “within the Region of Peel and beyond.” Through Community Connections, the centre focuses on adults, seniors, and youth. Meanwhile, Care for Newcomer Children (CNC) provides care for children ages one to six. Their summer camp focuses on school age children.
Both Kim and Hilmiye started as newcomer Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) students before joining NCP’s CNC team. Their passions for working with young children led them to where they are now.
Initial challenges in a new country
Canada is ranked the top nation for immigration in the world. For Kim and Hilmiye, Canada was a new land of opportunity. Canada represented “something new, something to explore,” said Kim.
In 2006, Kim moved to Canada to live with her husband who travelled back and forth between Vietnam and Canada for work. However, the language barrier and lack of community made her feel lonely and homesick. Her friends and family were back in Vietnam.
During her first year of living in Canada with her husband, Hilmiye felt “a lot of homesickness.” She explained: “The first year, I went two times back home to Turkey to spend time with family.” She video chatted with them often and still does. She also cooked and volunteered with the Turkish Canadian Union to “keep herself busy.” Eventually, Canada looked less foreign and more like “home.”
In 2000, Hilmiye and her husband came to Canada with Masters-degrees in Physics. Hilmiye aspired to teach physics with the Peel District School Board, but her plans were interrupted by the English assessment test. She was unable to meet the score requirement for English oral and written communication. “I knew English,” explained Hilmiye, “but I didn’t pronounce things like a Canadian.” As a result, Hilmiye was faced with two choices: 1. Spend money and time studying to get her teaching certificate, or 2. Save money for a house and start a family.
Her husband received a job offer in computer programming, through mutual friends who immigrated to Canada before them. “We were lucky [he got a job so quickly],” said Hilmiye. “I didn’t need to worry much about finding a job myself [because I felt] calm and secure.” In 2002, they moved to Mississauga and have stayed there since.
The first job Kim had in Canada was factory work. Despite knowing it would be difficult and tiring, she took the job because she no longer wanted to depend on her husband or anyone else. “I just wanted the feeling of depending on someone lifted,” she said.
Kim worked at the factory for six months, gradually falling into a depression. She felt disappointed in herself for having settled for a job she didn’t enjoy. “[I asked myself], ‘What am I doing here? I was a teacher [in Vietnam]! I went to work wearing áo dài and high heels. Now, I wear [a uniform] and [ugly] shoes….”
She quit and applied for Skills for Change in Toronto—a program equipped to help immigrant women. She also enrolled in a class called “Accountant for Immigrant Women,” achieving certificates for both programs. During this time, she found work in an office, however, the level of English spoken there was “too fast.” She was also pregnant with her first child and decided the stress was not good for her baby. She left her office job and a year later, her second child was born. She stayed home to care for her children.
Earning Canadian credentials and language learning
After taking the assessment test, Kim received a list of centres to apply for LINC classes. She chose NCP because the centre offered childcare services. As a mother of two, this was the perfect place for her to study without worrying about finding babysitters.
Before meeting her Level 7-8 LINC teacher, Kim hadn’t even thought about going back to teaching as a career. She did not think that Canada would accept her Vietnamese diploma. Her teacher and husband encouraged her to apply for college. Feeling proud, Kim submitted her applications. She attended Sheridan College for their Early Child Education program.
College was stressful for Kim: “My hair turned grey because of [school]!” She had trouble writing because she often needed to mentally translate her answers from Vietnamese to English before writing them down. She also felt insecure about her speaking abilities, believing others would judge her from how slow she spoke, so she barely spoke in class at all.
After her studies, “without a thought,” Kim went straight to NCP. In 2015, she worked as an on-call supply early childhood educator (ECE) for five months before being promoted to a long-term supply.
When her daughter was born, Hilmiye attended childcare assistant classes to gain skills to “be a good mom.” She started in Yorkdale and ended at NCP—formerly called, “Peel Adult Learning Centre.” She shared what she learned with other mothers in the Turkish community in Mississauga through her daycare work, which she started at-home at their request.
She offered a safe place for community members to drop off their children when they couldn’t find daycare centres that worked for them. She took care of five children every day, including her own child from 7:30am to 5:30pm.
After running her own daycare, Hilmiye found her passion. The joy on her clients’ faces could not be replaced. In 2006, she attended college to become an ECE. With support from her husband, she attended college lectures in the evening and led her daycare during the day. Even though she lacked sleep and was always tired, “somehow [she] managed.”
Hilmiye found work opportunities through networking. There was always someone in the community who knew someone who knew another person with connections. She was referred by a close friend to a teacher at NCP and started working as a supply teacher during her studies. After graduating in 2009, NCP offered her a full-time position. They told her, “Don’t promise anyone anything! We have an opening, and we want you!”
Like Kim, Hilmiye picked NCP because of the childcare program. Both women prioritized the needs of their children before their dreams. Both also felt that they belonged in this field of work.
Studies show that 90 percent of immigrants feel a sense of belonging in Canada. Hilmiye found solidarity in the Turkish Canadian community in Mississauga. The members shared similar experiences and gave each other positive support. “In this way, we created a very close family,” Hilmiye explained.
At NCP, Kim felt like she “belonged somewhere.” Hilmiye feels the same way, viewing CNC as her “second family.” She has been with them for well over 15 years and does not plan on leaving any time soon.
Advice for newcomers
Kim advises other newcomers to not let anything stop them from achieving their goals. “If you want your life to be better, you have to [take initiative and do things] yourself. No one will do it for you. [If I had given into my fears] of speaking English, I wouldn’t be [here] now.”
Hilmiye’s advice is to “keep a positive attitude.” She encourages others to be open-minded even if they don’t pursue their original profession. “Don’t worry, you will find your way.”
To read other success stories, explore The Newcomer website.