Here is another Korean woman who is trying to give back to Canadian society the help she got as a newcomer, via helping other immigrants. As a Korean who knows “Jeong (affection)”and also a sincere Christian, her dream is to run a nursing home connected to ISC services in the future. Let’s look at her story.
Q1. Tell me about yourself.
Hi, my name is Kim Mina working for a non-profit organization, Immigrant Services Calgary (ISC), as a Settlement / Integration counselor. My company provides a variety of services to support the settlement and integration of newcomers in the Calgary community. In my department, SLBC (Settlement and Language Bank Centre), we do an orientation about settlement in Calgary and general information about living in Canada every week and give some information about government benefits, education, living, English education, career and legal advice, etc. And also we hold various workshops on information about living in Calgary both in English and participants’ first languages, and run senior programs, translation and notary services, a volunteer interpretation service, referral services to other community resources and many other supportive services.
Q2. What made you immigrate to Canada?
My husband and I are Christian. We always wanted to share Jesus’ love helping children in poor countries. And that is why we chose Canada, where there is an established culture of charity and volunteerism. And also as Canadians, we can do wider range of work more freely, which we can’t in Korea because of ideological reasons, such as helping North Koreans. We are not doing much now but we will try hard to achieve our goal soon in the future.
Q3. As an immigrant, it must be hard to get into a Canadian organization, where everybody wants to work. How did you do it?
Well, I am not sure everybody would like my job… but I quite enjoy it. It matches my vision and my personality, I enjoy helping other people, and so I like supporting immigrants to get on their feet and get established with settlement information. As to actually obtaining my position, I would say specifically my career as an English teacher in Korea and my immigration law office experience in Canada were very helpful for me to get into ISC.
Q4. Do you feel any difference in terms of working circumstances between Korea and Canada?
Going for a drink after work, and the over-time work culture is different. At the beginning, it was a bit hard for me to understand (the fact that) employees are not pushed to work overtime and if they do, they are paid properly. And people usually prefer to invite others for dinner at their house if they want to get together, whereas going for a drink (outside) after work is the custom in Korea. As I’d often had to do overtime work and join colleagues for drinks after work, it was hard for me to balance my family and health with work. Canadians, however, they respect other people’s family and private lives and try to balance work and family life as much as they can. I felt good about that.
Q5. If you had difficulties in the work place, what were they? How did you get over them?
I often see immigrants having communication troubles. I also had similar problems but I worked harder than other people to overcome them. However, in this job I have not had any big problems because although there are many immigrants at ISC, the organizational culture is based on respecting other cultures with trust and cooperation rather than competition. We are like a family. Of course, I try hard to be more friendly to our clients and impress them with typical Korean diligence, hard work and Jeong (affection).
Q6. When do you feel proud of being a Korean at work?
The Korean community in Calgary is very impressive at showing its presence and strength. There are not many communities with so many active organizations, holding “Korean day”, “Independence day” and “Samil jeol” (anniversary of the independence movement of Samil, or March lst, 1919) ceremonies in front of Calgary City Hall. Those things help me to work as a Korean counselor with pride. In my organization, Korean newcomers are a minority but well-known for their passionate attendance at all kinds of self-help and skills upgrade training and workshops. For example, we recently started a free computer class for Korean seniors and which was heavily registered and attended, which made us decide to provide it continuously. I felt proud of being a Korean.
Q7. What are your goals in the future?
First, I hope I can help newcomers adjust and prosper with quality information. I am gradually getting to know our client’s needs and what services there are for them, many of which they are simply unaware of. The children of immigrants have difficulties in getting used to a new life, identity issues, getting a job and so on. In the meantime adult immigrants experience greater language barrier and social isolation issues, stress from cultural differences, and ordinary but still stressful issues of health and finance. And they don’t know of social community services or, even if they do, they give up for one reason or another.
Secondly, I want to run a multi-cultural nursing home connected to the services of ISC someday because seniors need more help than younger generations. It is just a dream currently but if I keep wanting it and trying hard, I think I can get it.
Q8. What is your advice to people who want to join the mainstream of Canadian society?
Many prior immigrants say, study hard, make human networks, get a certificate at the local college, volunteer a lot. I agree with them all! And one more thing I want to add is, “Do what you really want and enjoy it, don’t give up easily and you’ll have a happy life in Canada!”