Finding Community through Your Passion: Mirna & Maria’s Story

By Youdon Tenzin

Photography has been Mirna Chacin’s passion for a long time. She believes in the power of storytelling through photography. Therefore, it comes as no surprise to anyone that she would pursue this field professionally. It has taken up space in her life in ways she did not expect it to and connected her to various experiences she keeps close to her heart.

Mirna was born and raised in Venezuela. She was an established photographer working in various industries and organizations, lending her exceptional skills to help them connect with people. With over thirty years of experience, she was always finding ways to expand and polish her craft.

When Mirna first came to Canada in 2011, she and her wife, Maria McCormick, were introduced to the Mennonite New Life Centre of Toronto (MNLCT) by a friend, Gabriella Martinez. Gabriella was a staff member at MNLCT at the time and invited Mirna to a meeting one day. This event aimed to connect newcomer professionals. At this meeting, she interacted with other professionals in industries like hers. While she would occasionally take part in MNLCT’s events, it wasn’t until 2016 that she truly immersed herself in the organization.

In 2016, Gabriella told Mirna that she was planning MNLCT’s first Citizenship and Inclusion celebration. Intrigued, Mirna asked if she could volunteer for the event. She oversaw the search for a graphic designer to create invitations. During the process, she decided to take on the role of the event’s photographer, given her extensive experience and knowledge in the field.

The celebration was a success, and Mirna saw the fruits of her labour flourish. But more importantly, the event struck an emotional chord in her heart.

I was very moved and felt overwhelmed hearing the newcomers tell their experiences,” she said.

She realized how similar her own immigration experience was to theirs. She was inspired by the work MNLCT was doing and decided to volunteer as a photographer for the organization.

Upon realizing that MNLCT’s website did not feature many photographs of clients and staff members, Mirna spoke with the leadership team and embarked on a project. She wanted to create a collection of images for MNLCT. She took photos of clients to reflect the work and stories of the people of MNLCT. She worked on the Image Bank Project for around two years, and still contributes whenever she can.

The organization was so impressed with her work that they hired her to cover their events. Mirna was thrilled at this opportunity because she felt like she was finally starting to feel she was part of this new community.

For me, it was probably the most important task I did to make me feel like I belong to this country.”

Mirna’s love for photography always took her to new heights, and it coincidentally became the very thing that would help her integrate into Canadian society.

Mirna’s work and contributions to MNLCT didn’t go unnoticed. In 2017, the MNLCT presented her with a special Community Impact recognition award. Maria recalls how emotional Mirna got when she received a letter telling her that she had been chosen for the award.

Mirna soon involved her wife in her volunteering work. Maria, who is a project manager in the corporate world, brought her skills to MNLCT and supported newcomers in doing mock job interviews and mentoring them in the job-hunting process. In 2021, Maria became a board member at MNLCT.

The couple volunteers at the organization from time to time and are always happy to lend their unique skills to make the newcomer integration process easier for others.

Watch the full Mirna & Maria's story

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“The people who work for MNLCT are not only professionals, but also have a deep sense of empathy, which is very important when dealing with newcomers.”

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