The Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) program has helped facilitate yet another immigration success story in Vernon.
Nancy Mittathanickal was a nurse in India before coming to Canada. She is now a care aide in Vernon at Interior Home Care Solutions.
Her husband, Sabu Thomas, and her daughter Alphonsa Sabu are with her in Vernon — and it’s been quite the journey, one that isn’t over yet.
“I was a nurse in India,” Mittathanickal says. “Before I can be a nurse here, I need to take more exams and English proficiency tests. I’m still working towards that, but for now, I’m a care aide. It’s a really good job. I get to help seniors with their daily routines.”
Mittathanickal arrived in Canada from India five years ago. She studied to be a care aide in Vancouver before doing a practicum in Penticton. Three years ago, when her work permit was about to expire, she had to find a new way to stay in the community and bring her family to Canada.
“My friends from school in Vancouver, Akshaya Cyriac and Sajini Salam, came to Vernon to work as care aides for Interior Home Care Solutions,” Mittathanickal says. “There was a lot of news about a new program at that time. I talked to Akshaya and she said I should also come to Vernon.”
Initially launched in 2020 as a two-year pilot, the RNIP program helps helps communities and businesses benefit from the immigration of skilled workers by creating a path to permanent residency. The North Okanagan was selected as one of two communities in B.C. and one of 11 in Canada to participate. The program expanded to the Shuswap in October 2022 and was extended until August 2024.
That’s when Mittathanickal met the person who would be her biggest supporter through the program: Interior Home Care Solutions human resources manager Carol Odagiri. A supporter of the program since its launch, Odagiri says RNIP has played a critical role in connecting skilled healthcare workers with vacant positions.
“We were in a shortage of health care aides. Not just us, but everyone in town was fishing from the same pond. I was thinking, ‘How am I going to cover these shifts?’ No one is answering the advert,” says Odagiri.
“Nancy, like all the RNIP applicants we’ve hired, was a registered nurse in her home country. Nancy brings an added layer of experience to the care aide role. The quality of candidates we get, their level of commitment and their enthusiasm for working here in Canada, it’s very refreshing and it can’t be beat.”
Having already welcomed several healthcare workers to the team with the help of RNIP coordinator Ward Mercer, Odagiri was Mittathanickal’s guide through the process to renew her work permit and apply for permanent residency.
“Carol is one of the greatest people I’ve met,” says Mittathanickal. “She always supported me and my family. Whatever we needed, she was there to help. She even helped us find this house. No other employers are like that.”
Just over a year later, Mittathanickal’s husband and daughter landed in Canada.
Surrounded by friends and a strong sense of community, Mittathanickal and Thomas already see their future among the mountains, forests and lakes of the Okanagan.
Soon, Mittathanickal says she’s get her nursing licence and Thomas will go to school to be a care aide. One day, they dream of buying a house in Vernon, and it’s all thanks to Odagiri, Salam and the RNIP program.
“The RNIP program is a good opportunity for healthcare workers to get permanent residency here,” says Mittathanickal. “Because of them, our family is here now.”