Learn about the experiences of some of Sarnia-Lambton's newcomers


DRC FlagGaby Tshangala, Democratic Republic of Congo




Gaby and his family arrived in Canada as permanent residents through a resettlement program in 2012. For this family from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the initial challenges were adjusting from rainy and dry seasons in his home country to the four seasons of Canada – and dressing accordingly. In addition to the weather, they had challenges with understanding the Canadian “accent” of English and a diet that was worlds apart from the one in their homeland.


Gaby was then challenged to enter the Canadian job market and gain an understanding of how Canadian employment systems operated.  “I sometimes met people who seemed to be either reluctant in helping newcomers or did not want to offer any assistance at all, but that number was small,” Gaby remembers. “I was not discouraged, and started sending resumes out.  Networking through fellow church members and friends helped me target employers for whom I could provide references to and this helped me and my family through many challenges.”


Having worked as an electrician, as a chemical engineer and as a high school teacher before arriving in Canada, Gaby has achieved employment with Penta TMR in Petrolia and still hopes to get back into engineering eventually.  He and his family achieved a comfortable fluency in English through the YMCA Learning Centre which has continued to help him create resumes and cover letters.


“Canada is a country that is warm and welcoming to newcomers,” Gaby enthuses, “It also has a very solid infrastructure, vast natural resources and great opportunities to prosper and make your dreams come true.  There are many opportunities for growth here, and it’s reassuring to see how the government helps people build and improve their lives.  I also like the safety and security of Canadian society.”


There is no doubt that Gaby has profited from “the many programs to help immigrants adjust to living and working in a new country.”  His advice to fellow new Canadians:  “To help make the transition easier, it is important to understand how the systems of Canada work, the language people use and their customs.  But most importantly, a positive attitude and confidence can make a difference.  If you accept change in your new environment and you are positive about your journey ahead, you will be happy.”


 Cambodia Flag  Phanya Chea, Cambodia


 Phanya Chea


Sponsored by her daughter and son-in-law, Phanya Chea arrived in Canada for the first time quite recently. Her first impressions were focused on the climate, which, to her is, “cooler and cleaner” than her native country of Cambodia and has days that “are longer”. She found the people very “welcoming and friendly”.


Her first major challenge was adapting to Canada’s cold winters and a relatively more technical lifestyle that involved “using a stove, dishwasher, washer and dryer”. Phanya also,like so many other new Canadians, quickly learned that mastering the English language was going to be a high priority. She joined an ESL class and soon became employed part-time as a caregiver but is working hard on resuming her true profession as a nurse – something she worked at for over 30 years in Cambodia.


Phanya would advise every new Canadian “to learn English, it is very important. When you know English it is very easy for you to find a job and to communicate.”         



 Yugoslavia Flag     Milka Stupar, Yugoslavia


Milka Stupar        


Sometimes, it’s interesting to get a perspective not only from someone who teaches Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) but who has the wisdom of her own experience to draw from in order to increase her effectiveness at helping immigrants adjust to their new home.


Milka Stupar is just that person. Having been uprooted with the division of her native country of Yugoslavia, Milka reluctantly accepted refugee status and came to Toronto in 1996 as a landed immigrant. Speaking virtually no English, she underwent LINC training herself and obtained a Bachelor in Fine Arts degree from York University. While this was a great achievement and satisfied her interest in sculpting and art theory, Milka felt her true calling was in teaching, an occupation from which she held a degree from her homeland. There were very few teaching positions available in Toronto in the LINC program at the time, but Milka gained valuable experience within the Ontario education system while working as an interpreter, a supply teacher and teaching assistant (volunteer) for the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Eventually, she learned of LINC instructor positions available in Sarnia and has taught here at the YMCA Learning and Career Centre since 2009.


“I have had many students from around the world come through my doors in that time,” Milka says, “and I try to make their time in my classroom a safe learning experience and at the same time as valuable as possible in terms of getting comfortable in Canada’s world.”


Milka ensures that every lesson has a real-life point to it. For example, the English learned in any given lesson might apply to the world of banking, searching for employment, further education, geography, or even manners and etiquette. “I try and explain with every session the importance of what we are learning and how it will apply to Canadian society.”


A typical LINC course is very similar to a high school year with 2 semesters, one in the Fall and one in the Spring. Every intake student is assessed to determine his/her Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB), that categorizes the new Canadian as a beginner, intermediate or advanced in the fields of listening, speaking, reading and writing. In addition, computer literacy, is integrated into the daily curriculum as an essential skill category.


 “Based on my own experience, I believe that helping my students get into the habit of researching the new society they are entering will help them integrate more quickly and ultimately be a success story in Canada.” Milka states, “We emphasize professionalism in everything we do, and the English they learn here will get them engaged in the community, meeting their neighbours and sharing stories, learning the culture of their workplace more easily, and having the confidence to get out there and experience Canadian society first hand.”

This Web site is generously supported by the Government of Ontario through the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration and by the Government of Canada through Citizenship and Immigration Canada.