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success for immigrant couple

By Andy Radia

Immigrating to a new country as a single person or even as a couple is difficult at best.

Coming with young children, however, brings a whole other set of challenges: On top of having to find jobs and upgrading their skills, couples with children are faced with the task of finding affordable childcare, often in the midst of financial strain and without the help of grandparents.

That is the experience for thousands of immigrants to Canada every year.  It was also Jorge and Pamela Villanueva’s experience, in 2002, when they immigrated to Canada with their one-year-old son Paolo.

Shortly after they were married, the couple left their high-level managerial positions in the Philippines for a better life in Canada.

“We decided that Pam could look for a job with normal (8 to 5) hours while I should go for swing shift (mid-afternoon to midnight) or graveyard shift (midnight to early morning hours).  This will allow us to save on babysitting expense and at the same time ensure hands-on care for our son,” Jorge says.

“At the start it was difficult to find a job.  We sent out so many resumes for various job openings but seldom received a response.  Hiring companies would usually look for Canadian experience which we did not have since we were new immigrants.”

The couple, however, persevered and in 2003, with the help of new friends in Canada, they found ‘survival jobs.’ Pam was hired as a full-time inventory clerk at a publishing company in Vancouver while Jorge was able to secure a weekend front desk/night auditor job at a hotel.

They both held those positions until 2006 ensuring that one of them was always home with their son.

Concurrently, the couple went back to school.   Pam pursued her Certified General Accountants (CGA) designation and Jorge took part-time courses in bookkeeping and accounting.

The hard work paid off. They both now work in their field of choice: Pam is a finance manager and Jorge is development associate; both of them work at the same B.C. university.

“Looking at our experience, the pattern at the time was to first, get into the field you want even at an entry level position.  Once in, find out what knowledge and training are needed to qualify for a higher position,” Jorge says.

“It may be pursuing the CGA for finance and customer-service and finance training for a development position.  Once equipped with the necessary knowledge and training, we were able to qualify and eventually get the jobs that we wanted.”

In just over a decade, the Villanuevas had not only successfully rebuilt their careers, they’ve also expanded their family. They now have 3 happy and healthy boys aged 12, 9 and 8.

You might say that the Villanuevas are living happily ever after.

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