The Mennonite New Life Centre of Toronto (MNLCT) will expand its newcomer settlement and integration…
by Miles Hamzi
“Canada gave me a new life. I am two years old,” says Akinmade. As a government-sponsored refugee from Nigeria, Akin had high expectations but the journey has been a struggle.
“You don’t experience the real Canada until you live in it. People are warm and friendly; the government and people are helpful. Beyond that, there are harsh realities,” says the 40-year-old.
Like many newcomers with no credit history and no Canadian experience, finding a job and a place to live made his life even more difficult. He was getting conflicting advice.
I made a risky decision to quit my job and study.
“I was so overwhelmed. We were in a shelter, trying to get a place. We just had a baby. Some people advised me to get a place first and then get a job. Others said focus on the job first, then worry about a place later. We ended up living in Ajax and working in Toronto! I had no car and was working customer service shifts sometimes until two in the morning. I went through hell,” he recalls.
With a wife at home and three kids, Akin really felt the heat. “Customer service is not for me. I made a sacrifice and tried changing my career, but that didn’t go as planned. My passion is in media and communications, so I made a risky decision to quit my job and study,” he says.
With 12 years of graphic design and advertising experience, Akin wanted to up his game and study user experience (UX) design at a private school but couldn’t afford the $13,000 tuition fees. So he opted for the $3,000 ten-week certification course instead. He is still unable to land a job in his field and has had to resort to odd jobs, such as delivering groceries.
Earlier this year, he heard about MNLCT’s media and communications bridging program, BEMC, which he is enrolled in. “I love this program and I am meeting wonderful people. The instructors made me comfortable, and have opened my eyes to a Canada I haven’t yet seen.” He is looking forward to placement in a company where he can work on product designs, user experience and mobile applications – his passion.
“I want to feel settled. I want to start my life. I have always been someone who creates solutions, to help people. I am very optimistic and see a lot of opportunities.”