Not impossible, but challenging.
That’s how Raqiya describes her experience of immigrating to Canada from the United Arab Emirates in 2016.
“You start from nothing,” she says. “You don’t have an income, you don’t know the country yet, you’re adapting to new situations—and you don’t have family or anyone who can help you or babysit for you while you do things. It is hard.”
As time passed and the balance in her savings account dwindled, anxiety started to overwhelm Raqiya. She feared she would no longer be able to buy basic necessities such as bread and milk for her three children.
That was when she discovered The Salvation Army’s Pathway of Hope.
Cheerleaders and Coaches
Pathway of Hope (POH) is a case management system that helps clients such as Raqiya break the cycle of poverty by setting and achieving goals.
“It’s a one-on-one approach, which is fantastic because each step is custom-made for the individual client or family,” explains Christina Clapham, community support services and volunteer manager, Edmonton Centre of Hope. “We don’t have a cookie-cutter approach. They design goals for themselves, based on their strengths, and we’re here to be their cheerleaders and coaches. We will advise them, connect them with resources and give them options, but ultimately the choices are in the hands of the client.”
Originally developed by the U.S.A. Central Territory, POH came to the Ontario Central-East Division as a one-year pilot project in 2016. Following the project’s success in that division, Canada and Bermuda officially launched POH as a territory-wide initiative in October 2017, with the Edmonton Centre of Hope coming on board in January 2018. Since then, Edmonton’s POH program has had 25 participants—10 are currently enrolled in the program and 11 have successfully completed POH, meaning they have achieved the goals they set.
Raqiya was one of the first clients to join POH in Edmonton. Like so many others, she immigrated to Canada hoping for better opportunities for her family.
“In a Third World country, the economic situation is very bad, so people try to go to other places where they can make a good living,” she says. “Not necessarily a lot of money, but an improved quality of life—having access to education, health care and so on. Because I have kids, these things are important for me.”
But when the better opportunities she hoped for failed to materialize, Raqiya didn’t know what to do or where to turn.
“When I heard about POH, I was living in fear and confusion,” she recalls. “I was so scared, wondering, How is this going to work out? That made me sometimes unable to think clearly or plan things or do anything.
“Back in the UAE, I had help and suddenly I was alone and I had to do everything on my own,” she continues. “I felt stuck.”
Raqiya connected with The Salvation Army in the middle of a cold Edmonton winter. “I came from a place where we basically have one season—summer,” she says. “Here, the seasons change and every season I ended up buying clothes for my kids that they would not use the next year because they’d grow out of them. That was eating up my money.”
One day, she met a woman at a park who told her The Salvation Army could help her with clothing for her children. When Raqiya came to the Centre of Hope, she met Olayinka Dipeolu, POH case worker, who invited her to take part in the program.
“Honestly, at the beginning I did not know how she was going to help me,” Raqiya admits. “But I continued on with the meetings and we worked out a plan.”
With the support of Dipeolu and the staff at the centre, Raqiya set three goals. The first was to improve her mental health. Through POH, she was referred to a counsellor at Catholic Social Services who helped her learn to better manage her anxiety.
Her second goal concerned education. Raqiya is a medical technologist, but is not licensed to work in Canada.
“She was looking at retooling, but there were so many options, so many different avenues, and she didn’t know which one would provide a good, sustainable income for her family,” explains Clapham. “We helped her narrow down her options and develop an action plan.”
With support from her case worker, Raqiya had her English skills assessed and she enrolled in an ESL program at Solomon College. “It has been great,” she says. “I’m in my third and final term now.”
With her language skills greatly improved, Raqiya is already working on her next steps. “I’m applying for jobs now and I hope that I get one soon,” she says, “but if I finish this ESL course and I don’t have one, then I will go for more training.”
Raqiya’s third goal concerned her housing situation. “My rent was expensive, so Olayinka advised me about my options,” she says. “We looked at buildings and checked rent in different areas, and I applied for subsidized housing.”
Raqiya is now waiting for her application to be approved.
Raqiya graduated from POH in September 2018 and had the opportunity to share her experiences with the program at the Centre of Hope’s inaugural Sally Ann Spring Brunch event in April, which raised more than $20,000 for the Army’s programs.
“She was so brave,” says Clapham. “There were 200 people present at the event and she was very open with her story and did a fantastic job.”
“That was an emotional experience,” Raqiya reflects. “It was amazing because everyone there was supportive. Many people came up to me and encouraged me, saying that I was a good mom and that the immigrant experience is actually hard for everyone, that I was not weak. They wanted me to feel good about it, not to feel bad.”
Raqiya says that completing POH has made her much stronger. “That feeling that I’m alone here and I don’t have anyone—that’s gone,” she says. “I feel more focused, more confident in what I want to do, and I know more about what kind of help is available for me if I need it. I’m not stuck—if there is a problem, I can find a solution to it.”
Though she has completed her goals, Raqiya keeps in touch with her network at the Centre of Hope, grateful for the support they offer her and other participants in POH.
“The Salvation Army is an amazing organization,” she says. “I’m glad that they are doing this for a lot of other people as well. If The Salvation Army is able to help these families and kids, and give them a better quality of life, that is a miracle.”
Pathway of Hope
Since Pathway of Hope was introduced to the Canada and Bermuda Territory in 2016:
- 29 ministry units have taken the training
- 5 divisions have ministry units with training
- 83 participants have enrolled
- 64 participants have developed an action plan
- 26 participants have completed Pathway of Hope
*As of March 31, 2019. Five new ministry units in the Ontario Central-East Division received training in June.