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Overcoming isolation alongside other immigrant women
Mariya was able to meet new people through training and volunteering.

“I was born in Kazakhstan, in a village called Merké, where I lived until I was 16. Then, I left to study medicine, and I met my husband, who is from Azerbaijan. He was studying in France at that time, and I went to join him. We then decided to emigrate to Canada, and we arrived in 2016.

The first challenge when you emigrate is the absence of family, relatives and friends who you leave behind. I find it challenging to make new friends here. Family, love and friendship are values that are very important to me. I wish we could be more considerate of the people around us and kinder to all living things.

I came into contact with a United Way-funded organization that provides services to immigrants when I saw an advertisement on social media to recruit ‘intermediaries.’ At first, I thought it was a paid job, but I soon found out that it was a volunteer position. I was still interested because it would allow me to work with immigrant women and families. I would also receive training that would be useful to me.

More than that, this experience allowed me to overcome isolation and depression. The training I received also gave me a better understanding of the society where I now live. It helped me to feel at home. I met wonderful people and felt useful.

Through that role, I was able to learn about Quebec society and the services offered by various organizations. As an intermediary, I might act as an interpreter during board meetings or during parent-teacher conferences. I could also, for example, help someone fill out a form or find activities for the children.

I think this training should be offered to most immigrant women. Usually, it is the men who go to work in the new country first. But thanks to the training, women can improve their French and learn how to look for a job or write a resume. And this can benefit the whole family.

My work experience is over now, but I am still called upon when needed. As they say in this organization, ‘once an intermediary, always an intermediary.’ We are like a big family.”


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“I started my relationship with the agency four years ago. I was attending a program to learn about computers and someone suggested I could have lunch at the senior’s centre in the same building as the school. I was served delicious lunches and was able to participate in activities. The centre gives seniors a sense of independence and a chance to have a social life. They make them feel important.
As a newcomer, Sebastian found himself struggling in school and trying to learn English. Now, five years later, he is volunteering at the United Way-supported agency and serving as a leader to newcomers arriving today. His family emigrated from there home country when Sebastian was seven. “It was because of the state my country was in. It wasn’t the greatest in terms of safety. We were shot at one day when going to my grandma’s house, and I think that’s what led my parents to finally make the decision to immigrate.”