Emilienne Ngo Batoum’s new life in Canada got off to a rough a start. The Cameroonian translator hoped to continue her career in Montreal last year, where her husband had lived since 2010. She arrived bright-eyed but quickly found prospective employers thought Batoum was unqualified, despite having a master’s in translation and 10 years experience. Faced with the possibility of two additional years of schooling and thousands more in academic debt, the couple set their sights West. “Many people told me good things about Alberta,” she says. “So I said, why not?”
Batoum arrived in Edmonton on March 10. By April, she was already translating. Starting small with a hotel’s restaurant menu, she now has corporate contracts stretching to Toronto, and helps other newcomers communicate in court or at settlement agencies. It wasn’t just the “Alberta advantage” that gave her a boost. “Living downtown was really helpful for me because I have all these organizations around me.”
Her journey serves as an essential list for downtown newcomers looking to find solid ground, and it began the day she met Grazyna Pkaos, at Edmonton Immigration Services Association’s outpost in the Stanley Milner Library. The settlement officer got her started as a volunteer translator for EISA, which helped bolster her resume. Pkaos also directed Batoum to Alberta Works Centre a few blocks east, where she was provided with a career counsellor and additional training, and then to Catholic Social Services on 107 Ave., where Batoum had an official English language skills assessment.
None of her career milestones would have happened as quickly without local charities ensuring the couple met their basic needs upon arrival. Luckily, their 95 St. apartment is just steps from the Salvation Army,where they can get fresh bread and other foods whenever necessary. “They don’t look at you like a beggar,” she says. “They look at you as one of themselves.”
What isn’t within walking distance is easily accessible by LRT. The Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers by Stadium Station helped her with job searching, food banks, housing and free professional womenswear from nearby charity Suit Yourself. The organization has a long history of settling new Canadians and taught Batoum about the International Qualifications Assessment Serv
Batoum’s new life has turned a quick corner but she’s not planning to leave the core anytime soon. “I’m somebody who likes downtown because everything is closer. You have the library, city hall. During the summertime there were a lot of events here and I attended almost all of them!”
But one thing would make it better: a white Christmas—absent from Montreal’s mild 2014 winter. “That’s my dream. I’ve only seen it in movies.”