Celebrating multiculturalism and diversity in the community, 14 multicultural champions were selected to be featured and have their stories shared in the Penticton Western News on a monthly basis in partnership with the South Okanagan Similkameen Local Immigration Partnership Council and other partners.
Aiza Regala is a typical Filipino. Her family is the most important part of her life, she loves to sing and she smiles a lot. In fact, her smile is her survival secret. “Even if you’re working hard and you’re tired and lonely, just be humble and smile. It’s the best medicine.”
Regala arrived in Canada alone at the young age of 22. She admits it was tough at the start. “I cried a lot and it took a while to get adjusted to a new country and a new life.”
She got the opportunity to live and work in Canada through the foreign worker program. “I wanted to help my family, especially one of my brothers — I wanted to help him further his education.”
Regala’s work in hotel and restaurant management in the Philippines qualified her for work in the fast food industry here. She didn’t rely on just one job to get her started, she worked at two or three others, all at the same time.
Regala has heard the horror stories of some foreign workers who were abused or cheated of their pay and benefits. But for her, the work experience has been mostly positive.
“All of my employers have been very good to me. They have been very kind and considerate. We still keep in touch, even though I don’t work for them anymore. When I first arrived in Canada, there were some co-workers who were uneasy with me. But when they saw how hard I worked, we became good friends.”
In addition to working multiple jobs, Regala studied at Sprott-Shaw Community College. She earned a diploma and licence to work as an early childhood education assistant.
“I love children and I hope to have my own some day. Education is very important to me and is the key to success and personal development. I want to work on improving my English.”
Aiza has permanent resident status in Canada and is planning to apply for citizenship.
“I love Canada. It has given me many opportunities to improve my life. I feel very lucky. There are many people who would love to come to Canada and I am one of them. I am grateful to everyone who helped me get settled, especially the staff at South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services. I couldn’t have done it without their help.”
“Living here has been difficult, especially when you’re alone. It’s expensive here and I send money home to the Philippines. But I feel I have accomplished a lot and I’m still learning. I believe in working hard and being humble.”
Her dream is to one day bring her brother to Canada.
“It would be nice to have family here. To have someone to support you and care for you when you’re sick or feeling down. When you’re alone and you get sick, you feel obligated to go to work anyway.”
For now, it’s her smile that keeps Regala going.
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