“Burn your ships when you come and don't look back. When I came to Canada, I told my kids that I will not go back until you have achieved something,” says Saima Naseem.
Saima desired a good education for her four children. It was her dream that her children graduate from prestigious institutions, such as McMaster or McGill University. To fulfil that dream and give her children the opportunity to succeed in life, Saima left her home in Pakistan and immigrated to Canada in 2008.
Saima has a masters degree in chemistry and was working as a medical technologist and a teacher in Pakistan. Once she arrived in Canada, a friend helped her find an apartment in Hamilton and move there. After that Saima was on her own.
The first few months were difficult, but Saima’s children were her assets, strength, and source of encouragement. Saima volunteered at Immigrants Working Center, St Charles Adult Education Centre and also worked as a Community Engagement Worker at Social Planning & Research Council of Hamilton. Her volunteering experience helped her reach out to people who helped her settle down in Hamilton.
Saima’s ability to speak multiple languages – English, Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, and also read Arabic – has helped her. She now works as a receptionist at the Riverdale Recreation Centre, City of Hamilton and feels proud of how she can provide good customer service to Hamilton’s multi-ethnic community.
“As a receptionist it is heartening to hear from people, who would hesitate to access Riverdale Recreation Center because of their language barrier, that they find it comforting to know that I can communicate with them in their native language and that my presence encourages them to come,” said Saima. “I have also been volunteering at Lake Avenue Elementary School since 2009 where I help students who are struggling in English or Math. I feel being multilingual has helped me communicate with the students and guide them how to access and utilize resources available in the community.”
While Saima enjoys helping community members access the recreation center facilities and giving back to the community through volunteer work, she feels that the day her children graduate from university will be the best day of her life. And that day isn’t too far away, with three of her children already in universities and her youngest daughter in Grade 10.
In 2014, Saima obtained her certification from the Ontario College of Teachers. Teaching is her passion and she hopes to get back to that career and get on the supply teacher list. The urge to work and help her community drives her and she advises others who are new to Hamilton to work hard and access the programs that helps newcomers settle.
“There are lots of programs and organizations to help newcomers settle. If you are honest and hardworking, then you will be able to make your dreams come true,” says Saima. Saima’s Hamilton story of hard work and perseverance will no doubt inspire other newcomers and encourage them to keep on looking forward to fulfill their dreams.
Credits: An interview with Saima Naseem was first published by The Hamilton Spectator, as part of a series. The series was a joint initiative of the Hamilton Immigration Partnership Council, Workforce Planning Hamilton and the City of Hamilton’s Global Hamilton Office. Read the original interview here.