Settlement services client Gagandeep shares her experiences and struggles as a newcomer and how she overcame them with guidance from DIVERSEcity
Gagandeep was 30 years old when she packed up her things, left India and arrived in Canada as a student in 2011. Although she came alone, she brought with her a master’s degree in English, a degree in fashion design and experience teaching English in private schools.
She describes her arrival as a struggle, saying “it was very hard for me to pay the bills.” She had to make many lifestyle changes to get by, such as sharing rooms with other women. She also notes that coming to Canada as a Punjabi woman, she faced bullying and harassment as people would tease her. “They would make fun of my accent, they would make fun of everything,” Gagandeep says.
In 2012, one year after moving to Canada, Gagandeep got married, then had her daughter a year later. Gagandeep was juggling finances and a growing family all while settling into her new city of Surrey and continuing her education in hospitality and tourism. Adding to that, she faced additional challenges, including spousal violence, leading to a separation.
Gagandeep wanted support to help her through her various challenges as a new immigrant, but didn’t know where to turn. A woman she knew recommended DIVERSEcity saying, “if you have problems you can call DIVERSEcity for help.”
Getting help from DIVERSEcity’s newcomer information and support workers
“DIVERSEcity motivated me,” Gagandeep says, explaining the non-profit organization’s Settlement Services team gave her direction when having troubles settling in Canada. With guidance from DIVERSEcity, Gagandeep went to the Surrey School Board when her daughter was experiencing racism in school, was given coupons to help pay for groceries and accessed lawyer services to stand up and fight for child support for her daughter.
“DIVERSEcity gave me information about income systems and about doctors,” she says. “Whenever I’m stuck or my lawyer doesn’t understand me or I don’t know what to do, my settlement worker would give me information. She motivated me, saying don’t worry, everything should be OK. I don’t have anyone else to share my problems with, and DIVERSEcity is available every time.”
DIVERSEcity, a registered charity in Surrey, BC, empowers newcomers and other diverse communities to build the life they want in Canada. Its Settlement Services for newcomers are the foundation of DIVERSEcity’s mission to inspire belonging among newcomers. DIVERSEcity’s settlement workers, known as newcomer information and support workers, provide new immigrants and refugees of all ages with free and multilingual information and support. Starting with a one-on-one meeting to understand a newcomer’s needs, they work together to create a customized plan around settlement, housing and employment goals. Newcomers can also access support in filling out government application forms, attend workshops on life in Canada and get access to referrals to programs and services in the community.
Gurminder, the newcomer information and support worker guiding Gagandeep’s settlement journey, says her motto in approaching her work is “We rise by lifting others.” She explains that she helped Gagandeep with first steps like organizing her Canada Child Tax Benefit, helping with housing and connecting her with the food bank when she needed it. She also connected her with Legal Aid and counselling support as she struggled with her marital problems. “Above all, it’s about supporting newcomers with their ongoing questions as they settle into Canada,” says Gurminder.
“Whenever I see someone in need, I give them DIVERSEcity’s number to reach out for help,” says Gagandeep.