Valeriia is ambitious and focused. Like all newcomers who come to Canada, the settlement journey is not always an easy one, but she pushes forward every day. We recently had a chance to sit down with Valeriia. This interview was edited for length.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born and raised in the Ukraine and I moved to Toronto in 2016. I wanted to pursue my education here, so I did a two-year diploma at George Brown College and then I worked at the local hospital for a while. I realized I wanted to do something different. I wanted to do a post secondary-education and I was able to get accepted into Carleton University, so I moved to Ottawa

How did you discover CCI Ottawa?

Through my school. When I was researching where I wanted to do my practicum, I indicated I wanted to work with newcomers like myself and one of the options was CCI. I did a little bit of research about the organization. looked at the website and social media channels. I was really impressed with the mission and the goals of the organization. They aligned with my personal values.

Why did you want to work with newcomers?

I have personal experience of being a newcomer and there are many challenges but I was lucky because I had a lot of support from my parents and loved ones. But not everyone has that support. So I wanted to extend that support to others, the kind of support I had, to extend it to other people. I feel very passionate about supporting people who come to Canada and their integration.

What were some of those challenges for you?

Language. English is not my first language. Its not even my second language. Getting to know people was another challenge. Culturally. There are a lot of things that are different from where I grew up. Socially, it is a very diff environment. You are far away from your family, from your loved ones. It’s lonely and it’s very isolating. It can hard financially. You’re a newcomer. It can be difficult finding a job or any careers. A lot of things are off limits for you and it can be very frustrating.

What message do you have for people who are interested in volunteering?

There’s so much to do. Anyone can find their passion. We have the Youth Program. You can help organize different events. If you are an expert in a certain area, you can org a workshop for youth newcomers. We’ve had workshops that explore healthy relationships, the concept of consent, finding a job. You can volunteer and provide support.

There are English conversation circles. They (newcomers) come here and need confidence in how they communicate and speak. English conversation circles are the place where they can practice and socialize and extend their professional networks. If you are passionate about helping someone, you can join the matching and mentoring program. That’s where you can provide the personalized one-on-one support. It could be as easy as helping someone taking a bus or you could be helping someone with more complex issues like searching for a job.

What are your goals?

Even though I’ve been here for almost eight years, I still consider myself a newcomer. I’m still working on education. I want to get my degree. I want to work in policy and I want to work on something in immigration. I would love to contribute more to policy development.