Igmarrey Pacheco: Going with the flow
October 9, 2014
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of welcoming immigrants to our community is how much we can learn from them, given the determination, skill, and resourcefulness it takes to adapt successfully to a new home.
And Igmarrey Pacheco, a native of Chile, has a lot to teach us.
He arrived in Canada in late 2012 with his Canadian partner, Jana Bock, whom he met in Honduras in 2008 while they were both working with Cuso International, a Canadian international development organization. The big-hearted volunteers also lived in Uruguay and Costa Rica before making their way to Guelph, a world away. Igmarrey is an architect by training, but his focus and passion during his years abroad was working with poor and vulnerable communities on issues related to water and sanitation and engaging them in a participatory process.
Although Igmarrey’s priority at the minute is enjoying his role as a new father, and plans for the future are taking a backseat, he nevertheless feels that being an immigrant professional in Canada is “complicated”. The lack of contacts and connections can be a barrier, as can the tendency of companies and organizations to demand Canadian experience. [Please note that the Ontario Human Rights Commission now considers the demand for Canadian experience as prima facie discrimination].
And then there is the question of language. Though he speaks English reasonably well, he has made improving his English skills a priority and regularly attends St. George’s Centre for Adult ESL. For now, his job is not related to his field, but it does allow him to spend lots of time with his daughter. He hopes to eventually continue his international development work with an organization based in Canada, or perhaps start a business with his wife.
Challenges aside, it’s Igmarrey’s attitude towards life and being an immigrant that is utterly inspiring. He’s clearly excited to learn about new cultures: “When I am living in a new country,” he says, “it’s very interesting for me to meet the local people.” When asked what guidance he would give to prospective newcomers, he says “it is important to live in the present. If you are here in Canada, be happy here in Canada. Open your heart. Here you can find good people. Maybe it’s different people than in your country, maybe conversations are different, the food is different, many things can be different. But if your heart is open, you can enjoy the new experience and differences.”
When asked to expand on this attitude and state of being open-hearted, he says it means to “not have fear. Don’t fear new things. Trust in people. Trust in yourself. You’re an immigrant but you’re also a human being. You have capacity. You are strong. It’s very difficult to be an immigrant, to live far away from your family, friends, culture … All is different … but it’s important that you be clear that you are a person and you have your self-history, and you have capacity to make a contribution to Canada, because Canada is a good country, and it will be a better country because of your work.”
Those are words to live by indeed, whether one is a newcomer or not!