Connecting through food: Alejandra’s story

By Amir Khan, Communications Assistant (Intern)

Welcoming Week is a global initiative to recognize and celebrate the people, places and values that ensure everyone feels welcome and belongs in their local community. This year’s theme is ‘Where We Belong’ – focusing on the places and spaces that foster belonging for all, including immigrants and refugees. MOSAIC is proud to share Alejandra’s story as part of the 2022 Welcoming Week celebrations!

From a young age, Alejandra Perezalonso had a love for baking and bringing people together through food, with a dream of starting her own bakery one day.

The budding pastry chef earned a scholarship to pursue her bachelor’s degree in culinary arts at Le Cordon Bleu in Mexico – but political unrest in her native Nicaragua forced Alejandra and her family to leave their friends, family and pets behind in search of a new beginning in Canada.

“It was not easy to leave everything behind, my life was in Nicaragua,” Alejandra said. “However, my family and I knew coming here was for the best, we would be safe, and our future would be brighter.”

As a refugee, her new start in Canada was not without its challenges, which forced her to temporarily pause her educational journey to support her family. While Alejandra considers herself fortunate to have the support of extended family already settled in Canada, concerns about gaining employment and misinformation surrounding the settlement process left her family in limbo.

“We weren’t sure what to do, we were scared to do things wrong, we were also worried because our work permits were taking a long time and we were worried about money,” Alejandra said.

“As refugees, our connections and resources are very limited, it takes time to get used to the new place that we live in, to find jobs and become stable, somehow.”

MOSAIC’s settlement services helped guide her back towards her educational path. Alejandra connected with a settlement worker who learned what she wanted to study and helped her find schools. The arrival of her work permit soon afterwards meant she could help support her family and begin saving money to continue her education.

 “The settlement worker not only helped to find schools but also told me about scholarship opportunities that MOSAIC offered,” Alejandra said. “I kept investigating and applied to the ones I could. Now, MOSAIC has given me the great opportunity to have the Educational Enhancement Award, making my studies in Canada possible and giving me a better future.”

Alejandra said her passion for baking was inspired by her mother’s love of cooking savoury dishes, which led her to find her own niche in baking cakes and pastries through self-teaching and watching baking videos online.

By securing the Educational Enhancement scholarship, Alejandra will be able to pursue a baking certificate at Vancouver Community College this fall. She credits MOSAIC for getting her one step closer to achieving her goals of giving back to the community.