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Pursuing passion and crafting a future: Vergine’s story

By Nicole Chung and David Gomes

Vergine Tumanyan and her family moved from Armenia to Canada four years ago with hopes of a better future for their two daughters. Their biggest challenge when they arrived was that they didn’t know anyone. Her husband knew a few co-workers here whom he worked with in Armenia, but other than that, they were on their own. They did not have any other friends or family in Canada. 

Recalling what it was like when they first came to Canada, Vergine explains, “I was scared. I felt a huge weight of responsibility on my shoulders to care for my children because my mom or my sister were not here to help me.” 

Vergine worked hard to overcome the language barriers she faced since arriving here in the Great White North. She not only wanted to keep in touch with her family’s roots by preserving their native languages within their family, but she also needed to learn English in order to get better integrated in Canada. In the beginning, a lot of her time was spent caring for her children so it was difficult to find time for herself, to learn English. 

When her family arrived in Canada, Vergine was at Canadian Language Benchmark Level 4, but since attending the LINC classes at the Mennonite New Life Centre of Toronto, she says things have improved and is now able to set some goals for herself. 

I didn’t want to sit at home and just do housework. I wanted to do something for me, something that brings me joy and I started bit by bit.

Back home in Armenia, Vergine was an engineer but did not like it very much. Now she is pursuing her passions in crafting jewelry and caring for others.

“I participate in markets and I teach kids. I also work as a private caregiver in a nursing home. I work Saturdays at an Armenian Saturday school where I teach kids arts and crafts. I want to open an online store for my jewelry, but it takes a lot of time – I have to put new items up for sale all the time, check new messages and answer questions. I need better English skills to do it quickly.”  

Vergine’s passion for art evolved from being bored, sitting at home in Armenia. “I didn’t want to sit at home and just do housework. I wanted to do something for me, something that brings me joy and I started bit by bit. I worked on it at night.”

Since then, she has spent a lot of time honing her jewellery-making skills. She admits she hasn’t had any formal education in art, but she has spent about 6 years working on her craft – researching and trying different materials.

“I am very interested in it, I want to learn more, I want to try more, I want to show my work, and I want to teach others. Right now, I love working with clay but I dream of learning how to paint in watercolours. I’d like the chance to study art someday.”  

Samples of Vergine’s jewelry (from left): Turtle brooch made from polymer clay,
Brooch, earrings, and ring set made from polymer clay,
Necklace and earrings set made from linen thread and natural turquoise.

While she continues to develop her craft, Vergine attends LINC classes. With a smile, she recalls how she first came to MNLCT to register for the program.

“To be honest, I came to MNLCT because I needed the certificate for my citizenship document. I needed to complete a hundred hours of attendance to get the certificate, but then I saw the atmosphere and I decided to stay. We learn a lot and we develop our skills. We speak a lot to each other…read, write, everything. I want to get as many small benefits as I can. I think the relationship we have with our teacher is great. I feel very comfortable here, it’s like a family. It’s been a lot of fun.” 

“We’ve had parties – a New Year’s party, and a get-together in a classmate’s home. We chat all the time, not just in the classroom. I also participated as a vendor in the MNLCT Holiday Marketplace. It was a good experience.”  

“Before we came to Canada four years ago, I had only seen Armenian and Russian people in my country. After coming here, I’ve seen so many different cultures and different people, I couldn’t imagine it. I don’t know how else to say it, but we are all the same here. It does not matter where I am from. I started to feel very secure because I was meeting people from other cultures; I got to know about their families, relationships, and kids. All of it helped to understand other people’s thinking and experiences.” 

To see more of Vergine’s jewelry, come out to support her and other newcomers at our 2019 Holiday Crafts & Food Marketplace on December 7, 2019. 

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