What ESL programs have you used to help improve your language skills?
Language skills were not a barrier for us; we had worked to improve our skills prior arriving to Toronto. We were prepared mentally for the change in culture and language. We tried our best to speak fluently before we arrive here; we wanted to find a job and work and be part of community as fast as we could. We attended English ESL classes for a few weeks in June, but we stopped; the teachers were awesome, but the Hours were very long. If someone wants to settle in and have a job, it is not easy to dedicate 5-7 hours a day to study. We felt that our language would improve when we worked and socialized.
How did the LINC program help you prepare to enter the Canadian workforce?
In our case, it didn’t. We depended totally on ourselves and we trusted our skills to find a job. We believed in our skills and experience, and kept an optimistic view about things. We kept reminding ourselves that we are artists with special skills that are needed in Toronto, and we are open to try new experiences and we will not limit ourselves. At this point nothing will stop us. We had a great supportive group of friends and a sponsor family by our side that supported us in every way they could.
My husband found a job and started working in a music school three weeks after our arrival. We held some music workshops with a small not-for-profit four weeks after arriving here; the same not-for-profit hired me to be an after-school activity leader for a one year contract that started in August 2017.
While waiting for him to start his contract, we held a small fundraising event for our own work “Sounds of change https://www.soundsofchange.org/ ” in the summer of 2017 , again only few weeks after our arrival. We played music and met amazing individuals, and we had a chance to introduce our work in music and with children to the community. During that summer, we held workshops with COSTI, Culture link, Ryerson University, and money others .
My husband engaged himself with the Flamenco community in Toronto, which helped him to be part of personal and group music activity. We also worked together on events like Tight Net Syria, and other events with UofT.
As for myself, I kept engaging with my comic book studies and events , learning and interacting with others. I had a chance to meet and talk to one of my personal idols and comic book genius Joe Sacco, in a book signing and lecture at OCAD. This boosted my confidence. I kept doing my research and interacting with fellow researchers from the same field. I believe I have achieved a base of readers and followers of my work that I did not have a while back.
It is a fact that finding a normal job in Toronto is really challenging, especially for a new comer. We tried registering with work agencies, but the waiting list is endless and the need is great. We registered in June, we went to job fairs; what they don’t tell you there is that the waiting list is long , and you may wait for months before hearing from them.
When we found our current jobs, we didn’t know anything about labour law in Toronto. Currently we work as contractors; we get paid only if we are on the spot working, any off days or holidays (like Christmas holiday for example) we will not be paid for. This is difficult for a person that is living pay cheque to pay cheque .
However, even these challenges cannot stop us or put us down, because we trust our skills and ourselves, and we trust our tight net of sponsors. They are a family to us and they will have our back any time.
Was it easy to find resources to help you integrate?
It is easy if one tries. The Canadian community is really welcoming and open to new ideas. It is a very kind and helpful community, and people are willing to help any way they can .
What has been the most exciting moment exploring your new home?
Toronto is really a beautiful place. The outdoors areas are amazing, the wild life is spectacular, the food is multicultural and great, and the people are friendly and kind. Every day in Toronto is an exciting and new experience for us, and we are glad and grateful to be part of such a wonderful culture.
How have you handled overcoming cultural barriers?
For us, we have not faced many barriers. We enjoy every minute in Canada. Even if we face some odd moments, the people are kind enough to explain and guide and to help us integrate. Plus, Toronto is vast and multicultural; anyone can find a safe zone and a group of loving helping people.