Dayami Ramirez: Teacher extraordinaire
October 3, 2013
Picture this: It’s one of the coldest Ontario winters in memory, and one of the coldest nights that winter!
A man newly arrived in Canada is cycling through strange streets, heavy traffic, and occasionally knee-deep snow to get to a language assessment. His supportive wife is riding with him on the back of the bicycle so that she can interpret for him as he meets with the assessor. They don’t have money to take a bus because they’re diligently saving money to pay back the large debt they incurred in coming to Canada from Cuba. The police stop them to ask if everything is okay because it’s not often they see a sight like this. When the assessment is done, they ride home again, but this time it’s even darker and the cold even more bitter.
Six years and lots of hard work later, Dayami Ramirez and her partner Luis own a beautiful house in the south end of Guelph, have a reliable car to take them to appointments, and have long ago paid down their immigration debt. They’ve also just had their second child. In fact, they came to Canada to give a better life to their future children; they wanted to be parents more than anything, but there was little space to raise children in their tiny home in Cuba which they shared with several generations of relatives.
Although the couple came to Canada to find a better life, they have also contributed their advanced skills to making their new home a better place. Both entered Canada under the skilled worker category. A year after arriving, Dayami, a university professor specializing in translation and interpretation, began working as a settlement counsellor at Immigrant Services Guelph-Wellington (ISGW; now at 926 Paisley Rd), where she uses her own experience to help others. “It’s in my inner being to help others so they don’t go through the same things I did,” she said. Things we take for granted in Canada, such as credit cards, resumés, employee rights, internet, and -17°C winters were all new to her.
Dayami calls working at Immigrant Services a “blessing”. When she first arrived in Canada, the dynamic, positive, highly intelligent woman said it was challenging for to figure out how to find satisfaction after being a professor, a career she loved. But she feels that it was natural for her to transfer her teaching skills to helping newcomers learn about and adjust to their new community. Not surprisingly, she is also the education coordinator at ISGW and organizes lots of practical and informational workshops.
She has plenty of good advice to give to newcomers to make their settlement process smoother. First, actively seek information on resources and services. Take initiative to learn about things like government benefits. Second, set goals, such as improving your English, and don’t give up until you’ve reached them. Third, upgrade your skills.
Perhaps what stands out most when speaking with Dayami about her own journey is that she has much to teach others about the importance of having a clear vision for the future and making it happen!