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Laura’s Story

When Laura Victoria Fajardo, a psychologist from Colombia, consultant and professor at the Saint Thomas University in Bogota, came to Toronto, she started looking for opportunities to continue her career in Canada.

One day she received an email from her mother-in-law with a subject line “GREAT OPPORTUNITY” written in all capital letters. It was about The Bridge Training Program for Internationally Trained Psychologists and Allied Mental Health Professionals at the Mennonite New Life Centre. The email contained an attachment – a flyer informing that the program integrated academic training, occupation specific language and workplace communication training, employment counselling and workshops, and also supervised clinical training that provided participants Canadian work experience.

Laura went to the Mennonite New Life Centre, talked to the coordinator and enrolled in the program.

“In that moment,” she recalls, “I felt as if a whole world of new opportunities opened for me. This training was my dreams come true.”

The first important benefit of the program for Laura was the expanding of the lexicon of her profession in English. She also felt fast improvement of her oral and written English communication skills. Laura was content because, as she says, language skills are crucial not only for being successful as a psychologist in your work with the clients but also for networking and finding better jobs.

The Bridge Training Program provided valuable networking opportunities for Laura.

She started to exchange information and experience with psychologists, social workers and physicians who had practiced in many different parts of the world – in countries like Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Iran, Korea, India and Russia, and this exchange enabled her to increase her knowledge and deepen her understanding of many aspects of mental health.

Participants in the program were also encouraged to communicate through the Internet and share job postings and job-search experiences. One of the job postings Laura received through this network was for a paid position as a Mental Health Counsellor at the Mennonite New Life Centre, where she was studying at the moment. She applied and thanks to her previous work experience and her participation in the bridge training program she was hired. “Since then the Mennonite New Life Centre became like home to me – I spent most of my time there, studying and working, delighted to do what I love,” she says.

After completing the theoretical modules of the program, Laura started her supervised clinical training. She found the work placement a very enriching experience. For four months she worked at the Sexual Assault Rape Crisis Centre in Mississauga, where she provided individual counselling. Also, as a psychologist she attended group in the Vanier Centre for Women, a correctional facility for off enders serving sentences and women in custody awaiting trials.

“My supervisor’s support was excellent,” Laura says. “She constantly guided me and helped me during my individual and group counselling. I really appreciate the great benefit that the program offered us though this placement.”Laura is optimistic about her future as a psychologist in Canada.

For her successful start in Toronto, she credits the Mennonite New Life Centre. “I am so grateful to the Centre for giving me the opportunity to participate in the Bridge Training Program for Internationally Trained Psychologists and Allied Mental Health Professionals,” Laura says. “And I am glad that the Centre continues offering this program to other internationally trained professionals.”

By Lucy Slavianska ~New Horizons Media

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