Executive Director, Centre for the Integration for African Immigrants
Paul has been performing volunteer work in the African community for many years, the last four as Executive Director of the Centre for the Integration for African Immigrants. His work exemplifies the commitment of well-established immigrants to welcome newcomers and help them feel part of the community.
Paul is a passionate advocate for immigrants and refugees. He remembers, “I came in 1996, as a refugee from Zambia. It was very challenging – I knew nobody and didn’t speak the language. I didn’t really know what to do. It was very difficult for my daughter when we came here because she was fourteen, and had spent six years in a refugee camp with no school and very little normal life. There were no resources for people like us.”
Paul notes that a lot of immigrants from other countries are educated, and come as dependent immigrants, while many Africans are independent immigrants coming from refugee camps. He says there is rarely schooling in the camps. “For refugees coming to Canada, the big issues are language and education. It’s really tough. Nowadays we help people with integration, and there are more services, but there still isn’t a great understanding of the process for Africans.”
“When I first got here, the local government didn’t even know that many Africans speak French.”
The Centre for the Integration for African Immigrants helps people find housing, organizes youth programs, and advocates for African immigrants. Paul says, “Because I know these problems, it’s easy to help other immigrants.”
Paul describes the Centre, “We act as a bridge to the mainstream and multiculturalism. The Centre offers a resource centre and a job club.” He tells the story of one client, “She had eight kids, and had never been to school. She went to VCC, can now speak and write very good English, and is working as a nurse.”
Paul’s passion and energy demonstrate citizenship through participation. He believes, “Give people a chance and they can do anything.”