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Stepping forward


When I moved from Nigeria to Canada, I had no means to support myself. I felt lonely and isolated. It wasn’t easy. It was a big change to leave my family at home and come all the way here by myself.”

As a newcomer, I had no idea how to write a Canadian résumé—never mind landing secure employment. This limited my options. I never knew if I’d be able to pay my bills and I had trouble supporting myself. I was struggling to pay rent.

My friend told me about a 16-week retail skills training program offered at a United Way agency. The program allowed me to set goals and priorities for myself. It helped me realize that there are so many opportunities available to me and that all I needed to do was believe in myself. Back home, I had worked in customer service and was used to interacting with clients. The program taught me that my skills from Nigeria were transferable. I realized that all I really needed to do was try.

A few weeks into the program, a staff member at the agency noticed that I communicated well and smiled a lot. When the opportunity came to work at a bank, he told me that he believed in me and thought I could do a great job. Back then, I didn’t know what he saw in me! He put in a referral and after a long interview process, I found a job as a client advisor.

Now I pay my own bills. I can support myself financially. I’m comfortable talking to people and I’ve gained confidence. And, next year, I plan to do my master’s degree in financial services. The program was the first stepping stone for me. Starting over in a new country can be hard, but there are resources to make the transition easier. I would tell others to believe in themselves. Don’t give up.

- Shakirat
United Way program participant