Many of our clients maintain a meaningful relationship with a GGP staff member or volunteer long past their last visit to GGP. Others we may have a joyful reunion with at the grocery store or on the bike path, at community events, or at a wedding. Whether it’s a lifelong connection or a chance encounter, we revel in the opportunity to witness just how far our clients have come. In an effort to share this experience with our community, we will be bringing you monthly stories of perseverance, support, and belonging from our clients.
Last month, one of the performers at Ride for Refuge 2023 was the daughter of an early GGP client. The client’s name is Dominique and her daughter Eva-Marie performs around town with the Association of Cameroonians in Saskatchewan at events like Saskatoon Folk Fest. Speaking with Dominique, she recalled that GGP actually brought her to her first Folk Fest event almost 20 years ago!
Dominique came to Saskatoon in 2001 as a teenager with a closed caregiver work permit. Like many newcomers who are waiting for their Permanent Resident (PR) status to be approved, she found it difficult to move forward in her settlement because her status made her ineligible for many mainstream services. Thankfully, she came to GGP and learned that we address this gap by offering select English classes and other programs to those without PR status. “At that time there was nothing else I could do, I didn’t speak the language and I had just moved to Saskatoon, I had no connections. So, I would come to all the drop-in English classes and any activities that [GGP] had, that was my social life,” Dominique said. Every program Dominique fondly remembers is still on our calendar, from trips to Wanuskewin to an expanded slate of English classes for those without PR.
Once she had her PR, Dominique passed her English placement exam with flying colours and was able to get straight to pursuing formal education in the hopes of becoming a public health nurse. As she built a family and life in Canada, she also obtained her Adult 12, became certified as a Continuing Care Assistant, began working, got her diploma to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), and then graduated from the Registered Nurse (RN) program here in Saskatoon. Today, she works for the Saskatchewan Health Region as a Registered Nurse!
Her advice to any newcomer is: “Be open-minded and don’t be afraid to start back at zero.” When Dominique arrived, she already had her high school diploma from Cameroon but repeating her Grade 12 at no cost allowed her to transition into the Canadian post-secondary education system more easily and affordably. She strongly believes that newcomers must stay flexible and find creative alternatives to pursue their dreams in a new country. On that note, she has good news for anyone interested in nursing: “Right now they have a great bridging program from LPN to RN so if you have your two year LPN diploma you can bridge into the RN program and complete it in just two and a half years.” This option is significantly more financially feasible than doing the four-year RN program because the tuition is lower and you can work as an LPN while you complete your RN program.
Dominique’s journey was not a straight line but as soon as we met her, we knew that she would reach her goals. The strongest indicator of her future success was the step she took in committing herself to learning English while she waited for her PR. In this period when she couldn’t legally work or attend school, immersing herself in our English classes kept her from staying stagnant in her settlement, giving her the tools and opportunities to integrate more quickly. Dominique says she felt settled within just six months of arriving to Canada: “This is home, this has been home to me for a long while.”
Each month, we feature one of our dedicated, warmhearted volunteers. This month, we are celebrating