A recent Canadian study declared that 92% of Saskatchewan children live in a ‘childcare desert.’ The difficulty of finding accessible, affordable childcare not only keeps many women out of the workforce, it can force newcomer women to sacrifice their personal settlement journey. If you are the primary caretaker of your children and your partner is at work, how can you access English classes and other programs that will help you integrate into your new community? While their partner and children progress through work and school, these women can spend a decade or more left behind, isolated by a lack of opportunity that creates prolonged unfamiliarity with the local language and culture. To address this barrier, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) supports us to provide free childminding services to any newcomer parents attending our IRCC funded services such as English classes, computer skills courses, or employment workshops. A GGP client named Aqsa has had her kids in childminding twice a week every week for the past few months as she completes our computer programs. Aqsa says, “I can’t attend classes without child care.” A few years ago, she tried to attend English classes but found regular attendance difficult while raising her children. This time around, in three months of computers classes, she has only missed one. She said her children enjoy childminding and the computer classes have “helped [her] a lot.” Higher level knowledge of computers will directly assist her in finding Canadian employment in her scientific field. All of the women who work in our CNC program were once newcomers themselves and most of them are mothers. Momtaj, our CNC Team Lead, says this parallel assists her in her work. “Most of the newcomers were once like me and my two young children. They have a form of battle to successfully adapt and establish in a new country and culture. This is in my eyes a rebirth,” Momtaj said. “At GGP, I have the opportunity to learn and enrich my knowledge and understanding of newcomer needs to be successful.” Momtaj first began working in Canada as a preschool teacher and teaching assistant in public schools. “Working in these fields opened my eyes to the importance of holistic development of children. Children learn their best through play in their early stages of life. Taking this opportunity, we ignite and mould a child’s interest towards positive learning,” Momtaj said. She has now been our CNC Team Lead for six years and has only further developed her passion for supporting newcomer families. Silvana has been on our CNC team for almost 9 years; she also previously volunteered with children in Brazil, her home country. She emphasizes that the children in our program are not just being entertained until their parents return, they are on their own journey of settlement. “Many children come to us without even speaking any English. It is very rewarding to see them grow in different ways, like learning social and behaviour skills, and adapting to a new culture and country,” Silvana said. Shama is a longtime CNC team member whose interest in ECE was actually sparked as a volunteer at GGP. She first joined us as a client and developed her English and a few workplace certifications, later becoming a volunteer: “I began to volunteer in kids programs and that piqued my interest to pursue a career in ECE.” Momtaj, Silvana, and Shama all agreed that the most powerful success stories were the ones that began as the most difficult. “We always have some special needs children and the newcomer parents do not know how to meet their needs and get the support from external agencies. When any special needs child under our care starts to become confident,” Shama said. “I feel so proud of my career for being able to meaningfully contribute in the life of the children and the family.” Shama said one of her favourite parts of her job is being able to clearly see the impact she has had. “Whenever our clients or children meet me anywhere and rush to talk to me ‘You are Shama!’ That always makes me proud of the change and influence I have on the families,” Shama said.
For many of us, the holiday season is a time of both gift giving and