It was a windy winter morning and I waited for Cloreth at a coffee shop at the Jackson Square, after a few missed calls and texts back and forth we finally were able to sit down and begin the conversation. Before we begin talking about her story, she asked me to clarify what we will be using this for. Motivation, I said. In a summary, we want to document the stories of newcomers, immigrants and refugees and shed a light on what the “immigrant story” is like and break some of the stereotypes or assumptions people make to open space for common understanding.
Cloreth is a powerful and determined woman who immigrated from Jamaica some 5 years ago, like a lot of other immigrants she came to Canada looking for an opportunity to change her life for the better. She is a Harvard certified leader, educator, speaker and communications professional. Like most immigrants she knew she would have to rebuild her professional life in Canada, but as she spoke about the various jobs she had to take in order to get where she is now, her eyes show the hardships she endured in the workplace. She spoke about her experience as a black woman looking for a job in Canada, the discrimination she’s faced and the paradox of the selfishness of other immigrants who have come before.
Regardless of the obstacles she faced, one of the things that struck me the most about Cloreth is her drive to make things happen and the trust she has in herself. A confidence fostered since childhood has brought her to push herself into completing a Masters Degrees despite having to do it while holding two jobs “there were many times where I almost missed my bus stop because I was falling asleep, I slept sometimes for only two hours” she said as we spoke about her journey through that 4 year degree, after completing it she found herself an opportunity that “is the vindication and the reward for all the effort that was made” her thesis was recently selected to be presented at a conference in Calgary where she will be talking about the importance of training staff who work with the elderly to avoid abuse and neglect. As she explains, getting this paper selected was no easy task, “I almost didn’t submit it...I researched, made some phone calls and I didn’t think it was good enough. After receiving a call from the VP and telling her about my paper I felt encouraged, so I sent it in, and it got accepted!”
When she speaks about the moment she got the acceptance call her face lights up and both of us are filled with pride for her achievement. Most people don’t realize that when professional immigrants come to Canada they face a number of barriers to thrive in their careers. Many highly qualified immigrants like Cloreth come to Canada through the highly trained and skilled program, which has a rigorous selection criteria and selects the best in their field to contribute to the growth of the Canadian economy, but while speaking to Cloreth I wondered how this actually plays out in real life. I have met many people who come here without academic credentials and they work in low-paying, general labor work and then there is a lot of newcomers who are highly trained, speak english perfectly and they are still unable to work in their field for quite some time because many workplaces require them to have Canadian credentials and experience, and it is not without a lot of effort that they can find a company or a job that will invest in them.
From our conversation, I could see how the mainstream narrative of what it is like to come as an immigrant played out in Cloreth’s story. What non-immigrant Canadians need to understand about the immigrant experience, is that people don't come here to take jobs or opportunities away, or are lazy or are stubborn in their ways. They, like everyone else, come here looking for opportunities. They are statistically proven to create jobs, not take them, they come here with the intentions of achieving things that in their home countries they might not be able to because of structural poverty, discrimination, war or many other factors.
Many come here with high hopes and despite facing barriers and boundaries, continue to push through with the hope that they too will achieve their dreams. Cloreth is one of those people that didn’t give up “a broken spirit is too expensive, you cannot afford that” she said as she spoke about how many of her fellow-immigrants went home or have been crushed by the system and opted out to stop believing in the dream that brought them here. After speaking to her, I knew that this message had to be one of hope and motivation but also one of clarity to those that haven't lived the immigrant story, to understand how much strength it takes to make it. I asked Cloreth, how have you managed to be so strong and believe in yourself? Be so confident? As a fellow immigrant woman of color with multiple intersections, I get bogged down sometimes and find it hard to find my centre and she boiled it down to one simple message
“I want other immigrants to know that no matter where they are from, no matter what their educational background is, it is hard. Sometimes it will break you down, but if I can do it, you can too, dont give up on your dreams. You will be able to reap the rewards, don't let any person or situation determine your value. Believe in yourself, it is the foundation and basis of your growth, development and success. The whole world can believe in you but if you don't believe in yourself, none of that matters” and to me that is the essence of Cloreth. A woman who despite having faced multiple barriers to achieving her purpose has focused on believing in herself, pushing herself and seeing how valuable she is and allowing that to propel her forward into a new path. Cloreth is closer to achieving her dreams, inspiring others to do the same regardless of their credentials or lack thereof, and sharing her message of kindness and paying it forward.
You can catch her talk on Education at this conference on this date or you can connect with her through LinkedIn.