Vancouver non-profit organization trying to help Canada’s newest members

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

Although Hasib Wali used to teach IT courses in Pakistan, he’s stuck working at a fast food restaurant and in construction just to make ends meet and help pay for his family in Burnaby. Les Bazso/PNG

Hasib Wali loves computers and information technology — yet his passion, armed with an IT degree, has only landed him a job at a fast food chain.

“My field is IT — I love computers, I love networking,” the 25-year-old Burnaby resident happily told Vancouver Desi.

After earning his degree in Pakistan, he taught IT courses for a year and a half. But six months ago, Wali and his family fled the unsafe conditions and came to Canada as refugees.

Instead of working in the field he loves, Wali is working three days a week at a drive-thru and three days on a construction site.

“I want to search a job in my own field, I want to work and be a professional IT person,” he said. “I’m searching the Internet, sending lots of resumes to different companies, nobody even replies to me.”

“Because of some expenses — my home, my bills — I have to work.”

Unfortunately, Wali is just one of “thousands of immigrants per year” Vancouver’s non-profit immigrant serving organization MOSAIC is trying to help, according to spokesman Christian Saint Cyr. The organization’s latest effort is a job fair on Thursday with nearly 30 local employers at Commercial Drive’s Croatian Cultural Centre.

“Immigrants really benefit when they’re able to meet employers face-to-face,” said Saint Cyr. “(Otherwise) you have a resume, someone with an unusual name … and went to a school you don’t recognize — it’s easy for an employer to sort of pass that by.”

And then there’s the language barriers.

“A person could be … far better experienced and educated than what they would have gotten in Canada, but if they’re struggling to articulate that in an interview or a resume or cover letter then they’re dismissed,” he said.

Wali has sent out more than 100 resumes hoping for something in his field.

“Nobody accepted me because of my language; they say that they need professional English and my English is only basic,” he said.

So he enrolled in an ESL program and is back on the hunt.

It’s even difficult for highly skilled medical professionals, like Anmol Bhangala, who worked as a general physician in Punjab for eight years.

“I’ve been through a bit of a struggle,” he said.

Bhangala moved to Richmond more than a year ago and soon realized he would have to “start from scratch” to get back to the profession he misses so much.

He needs to take a series of tests and then get into a residency program, which could take up to six years.

So he’s had to find a “survival job” working security for the time being.

“It’s very painful when you come here and start fresh again and going through the process and in the meantime working at a very low paying job,” he said. “It was not easy to find this job even.”

“It was very difficult (at first) and I wasn’t sure whether I would stay here or not.”

But for Wali, moving back isn’t an option.

“Canada is much, much, much better than Pakistan,” he said happily. “I cannot go back there, I want to stay here, I want to be successful.”

He just needs an employer to trust his Pakistani work experience.

“If they don’t give me a chance working here how can I get the Canadian experience?” he asked. “I used to teach MS Word , windows installation and these things … they should give me a chance, they should see my work and after that they can decide.”

MOSAIC’s job fair runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 3250 Commercial Dr. The organization held a similar job fair in July where the majority of job seekers were immigrants and, according to Saint Cyr, it was “really successful.”

lcahute@theprovince.com
twitter.com/larissacahute

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