Mariia Elsayed, a former Career Facilitator at ISSofBC, spoke at the Ismaili Centre Vancouver on her experiences since leaving her home in Ukraine due to the war, and what has given her strength as she navigates new challenges in Canada.
As you can see from her story, Mariia came to Canada with very little but through her determination, community support, and her compassionate spirit, she has not only built a life in BC but has thrived in her new community. We hope you enjoy reading her inspiring story:
My name is Mariia, and I am originally from Ukraine. When I first arrived in Canada, I was filled with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Leaving behind my home, my family, friends, and a job that I loved, I was stepping into the unknown.
The challenges that awaited me were plentiful—finding suitable housing, searching for a job, securing reliable daycare and school for my children, and the daunting task of starting over in a foreign land.
I came to Canada with my husband, children and $300in our pocket. We left behind our home and two successful businesses.
My husband and I chose Canada as a safe place for our family. We had no friends or relatives in Canada but we will be forever grateful to the family who hosted us soon after we arrived in Canada.
One of the most challenging aspects of our settlement journey was the initial struggle to find stable housing. In a new country with unfamiliar procedures and limited resources, the housing market felt like a labyrinth.
Through perseverance and the helping hand of the community, we eventually found a place to call home for my family. I met an amazing family through a community group that generously offered us discounted housing for the first few months after our arrival, and that is how we found our first home. They supported us with love, care, special homemade food, groceries, and school supplies.
We also received donations from ordinary people, such as food, groceries, clothes, furniture, and so much more. We got everything we needed for our family; it was so many things that I started to share with other Ukrainian families!
The search for employment was another hurdle I faced.
Despite my qualifications and expertise, I encountered barriers due to language proficiency and differences in professional certifications. But here’s where the beauty of diversity comes into play. The Canadian community, renowned for its inclusivity and support, extended a helping hand. Organizations offered language classes, job fairs, and mentorship programs that not only enhanced my skills but also boosted my confidence.
Being far from my family and friends was the hardest part, but the community where we lived became our extended family, providing us with invaluable guidance, friendship, and a sense of belonging.
Giving back despite challenges
I want to emphasize that my personal journey has inspired me to give back to others who are facing similar challenges. As a volunteer, I dedicated my time to helping fellow Ukrainians with their employment, resumes, and job searches. It was a deeply fulfilling experience to witness their transformation and to see their skills and potential shine through as they regained their confidence.
In the process, I realized that I had discovered my true calling—a job that aligned perfectly with my skills, experience, and strong desire to help others overcome their own challenges. I was fortunate enough to find employment as a Career Facilitator on ISSofBC which allowed me to continue supporting people who, like me, arrived in Canada as skilled and motivated individuals, yet carrying the emotional burden of a country torn by war.
Reflecting on her journey
Despite these difficulties, there have been rewarding parts of my settlement journey, most importantly, the connections I formed and the resiliency I gained. In Canada, diversity is celebrated, and it was in this melting pot of cultures that I discovered a wealth of perspectives and experiences. These interactions enriched my life, broadened my horizons, and allowed me to grow as an individual. The warmth and inclusivity of the Canadian community transformed the feeling of being a stranger in a foreign land into being part of a diverse tapestry that makes this nation so vibrant.
As I reflect on my journey, there is one thing I want you to take away from my story: the tremendous strength that lies within diversity. It is through embracing our differences, standing together, and supporting one another that we foster resilience and create harmonious communities.
The war in my homeland has left many Ukrainians broken from within, but it is through collective strength and resilience that we rise above adversity. My own journey serves as a testament to the fact that while we may face different battles, we are united in our pursuit of a better life for ourselves and our families.
To all Immigrants who have embarked on this path, I want you to remember that you are not alone. Canada and its compassionate community are here to welcome you, support you, and help you rebuild your lives. Embrace the opportunities that arise, seek assistance when needed, and never lose sight of your inner strength.
The power of diversity
My journey to Canada was not without its challenges, but the rewards and support I received far outweighed the difficulties. Through the kindness of strangers, the support of community organizations, and the embracing nature of this great nation, I found my place in Canada—a place where diversity is cherished, and resilience is fostered.
Let us continue to celebrate our differences, extend a helping hand, and forge connections that transcend borders. Together, we can build a future where diversity is not merely tolerated but celebrated as the very essence of our shared humanity.
Thank you and may the spirit of diversity and resilience guide us all.