Erika’s initial frustration in Canada was the language barrier: “In my country we are supposed to know and speak English but when you come here you say, “oh! I didn’t understand anything!” because it is a different kind of accent. It was trouble for us.”
Private language institutes were expensive for non-residents, so she went to free language classes at churches and community centres to build up her language skills.
Even with her Master’s degree, Erika had difficulty finding work in Canada:
I know my knowledge and experience in Mexico but you come here and they ask you “do you have you have experience? Do you have English experience?” And I don’t have anything. That was very difficult.
These barriers made Erika and her husband feel isolated, but they decided to stay in Canada: “We have a dream to be here. So we said, “Okay we need to fight for here and we need to find some jobs to be here.” She started working in a Spanish restaurant but, after a few months, decided it was time for a change.
If I decide to stay here, I’ll never start to learn more English and I decided that I needed to find the same job, but in English…there is a restaurant and I start to work there, they gave me the opportunity because I didn’t know nothing about it…for the Canadian style…they gave me the papers for work, for the work permit and I was there for almost five years with them…I learned a lot, for in the kitchen, for a little more English.
When she had her oldest daughter, Erika started attending parenting programs and programs for immigrant women at community centres in her neighborhood. She was introduced to the HIPPY program but, pregnant with her second child, she did not feel she had time to go through the program. Unfortunately, when she finally decided to enroll, the Britannia site was closing down, so Erika was unable to begin the program until a year and a half later.
After working through the program with her daughter for several months, Erika became interested in becoming a Home Visitor but was hesitant: “I was not very comfortable because my English was not very good and I said, “I don’t know if they are going to select me because my English is not good.”” However, after her interview, Erika was told that she got the Home Visitor job: “when they accepted me, I said, “Okay. I’m going to do it!””