The Respect Network is a group of community organizations in the Thompson Okanagan region that seek to have all community members welcomed, valued and respected. Over the next two months, the Capital News and KCR Community Resources will feature success stories from the community.
By Dorothee Birker
Jinky French is an immigrant who has worked hard to succeed and to create a secure life for herself as well as for her Canadian family, and her family in her homeland of the Philippines.
“I am the breadwinner of the family,” she explains. “I belong to a poor family—my parents had me when they were only 16. My father is a motorcycle repairman and my mother looked after the family. I ended up putting my siblings through school.”
In her early twenties, she had a successful career as a loan officer for a car company. When the Filipino economy took a turn for the worse, she needed to find new options.
“A friend told me about being a nanny in Canada,” remembers Jinky. Fearing stories of difficult living situations for many Filipinos working abroad, Jinky knew she wanted to try to move to North America.
Although her initial work placement didn’t suit, Jinky persevered and found a wonderful family to care for. She met the requirement of working for 24 consecutive months in Canada so she could apply for her permanent resident status.
While waiting for her permanent resident application to be processed, Jinky was dealt a difficult blow. Back home in the Philippines, her sister was ill from tuberculosis and malnutrition. Jinky was unable to go home as it would have jeopardized her status in Canada.
“It’s a big sacrifice,” she says tearfully. It is easy to see how fresh the pain still is 14 years later. “I couldn’t go home. My sister passed away and I could just pray to her spirit and see my family online. I just sent money. This is our life now, that I have to stay here to support our family.”
While continuing to look after her Filipino family, Jinky also started her own family in Kelowna. She and her Canadian husband Curtis have two young girls that they dote on.
“My dream is to bring my family here. They are the main reason that I came here. We come here not just for ourselves, but for the family we left behind,” Jinky explains. “From the time we are here, we send money every month. If we don’t, our family will be devastated.”
Jinky’s hard work is paying off and she thrives on her achievements. “I love my jobs—from nanny, to a nursing assistant, to my work now as a financial advisor.”
In 2011, while still working as a nursing aide, Jinky dedicated herself to learning a new career and is now a marketing director with the World Financial Group. The awards that line her office indicate her success.
“You have to be passionate in helping people, and passionate in educating them about saving money. I am proud of myself,” she continues. “Even though I don’t have a degree, I believed in myself and I knew I could be successful here. Here as long as you believe in yourself, and focus, you can do what you want, no matter what your background is.”
Jinky will be sharing her success story at “Ignite Okanagan,” an employment summit hosted by KCR – Community Resources and COLIP (the Central Okanagan Local Immigrant Partnership) at the downtown Library from 12 to 3 p.m. on Friday, March 23. Everyone is welcome and Mayor Basran is also a keynote speaker.
The event brings together employers and service providers to highlight opportunities and programmes that encourages people to rethink their hiring process and make it more equitable for everyone.
“We know there are issues for immigrants with professional backgrounds—both in office and skilled trades—finding work,” says Rawle James, COLIP coordinator. “There are many service providers that support both the employer and the participants, helping them to be job ready and functional for Canadian work places. The summit will show that diversifying the work force benefits business directly and the community overall.”
Between 2011 and 2016, the Central Okanagan welcomed 175,555 newcomers, six out of 10 of them entering through the Economic Class, where applicants are selected on the basis of their ability to become economically established in Canada.
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