Haleema Azizi, a former MOSAIC client who now works for the organization, departs for Ottawa on May 8th to participate in the Youth Advisory Group (YAG) for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
Haleema is one of only 15-20 youth from across the country to be selected as part of YAG, which seeks input about various Departmental initiatives and topics. In their search for YAG members, applicants were sought who have “lived experienced with, and/or knowledge of the Canadian immigration system”.
Please see below for Haleema’s personal story.
At the age of 20, Haleema Azizi became the sole means of support for her mother and two younger siblings when her father passed away in 2014.
Unlike the majority of Afghan girls and women, Haleema had been permitted by her family to go to school – even attending university – and also to work. Despite this, she was becoming anxious as Afghanistan remained a war zone and her status as a working woman was frowned upon and often questioned, even by family friends.
Haleema married in 2015 but her husband’s work took him to the U.S. shortly after the wedding. In the fall of that year, he crossed the Canadian border to seek asylum and was eventually accepted into Canada as a refugee, in turn sponsoring Haleema who arrived in Vancouver in August 2018.
Haleema, already fluent in written and spoken English, was happy and excited to move to Canada, where she imagined that citizens were “free, relaxed, and able to enjoy life”.
Nevertheless, she was concerned about her unfamiliarity about Canada and her new environment including multiculturalism, systems, social norms and expectations, and her employment prospects. Shortly after arrival, Haleema came to MOSAIC for help, and registered for participation and support with four programs related to settlement and employment assistance.
Haleema attended many workshops, including ones related to leadership and job readiness as well as settlement. She toured a variety of workplaces as part of her job research and took on projects, such as creating presentations for other newcomers like “How to use Public Transportation” because she personally encountered difficulties using public transit after her arrival and decided she could help other immigrants through her project.
Haleema already had solid work experience from Afghanistan in HR and Administration, as well as impactful participation volunteering with established charitable and non-profit organizations. She was quickly able to parlay her skills and learning into a practicum job with a Burnaby BIA, and was offered a permanent full-time position by MOSAIC near the end of her practicum.
By December, Haleema was working as a Program Assistant for employment services, just 3 months after arriving in Canada. And because Haleema was a newcomer who demonstrated thoughtfulness, resourcefulness and initiative, along with an aptitude for helping others, her MOSAIC colleagues nominated her to be part of the Youth Advisory Group that was being formed by the Ministry for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. After being vetted and interviewed, Haleema was selected to be a Youth Advisor for IRCC and will be travelling to Ottawa in Spring 2019.
Haleema expressed gratitude and appreciation for the opportunities she has had since arriving in Canada. “As a youth and refugee, I experienced a big life change moving to a new country at a very formative period of my life. There were a lot of challenges in finding compatibility to new environment, culture and people. I experienced a lack of network and support and was almost at the middle of nowhere until I came to MOSAIC.
“MOSAIC opened up all possible ways to achieve my goals by helping me to realize my own potential, and to understand the various opportunities available for me. MOSAIC helped me navigate my way around the community so I felt comfortable and knowledgeable about what I need to know and learn about the customs, norms and expectations of Canadians.
“Now I am seeing myself on the right path; I feel confident, self-sufficient and hopeful for my future.”
Haleema is optimistic and excited about her life in Canada. She enjoys meeting new people in her community and having a job where she can help other newcomers. She is also happy she can help support her family in Afghanistan, although her younger siblings are now also contributing to maintain their household.
Her advice to other young immigrants is that “Canada is a country full of opportunities. Find your way to those opportunities and they are all yours – nobody can take those chances away from you.”