It is a problem many newcomers to Canada face: they have great skills but are unable to find work.
Many cannot afford the costs of Canadian accreditation, training or career development. As a result, they are often under-employed or working in “survival jobs” that are not related to their profession and generate only enough money to get by.
Windmill Microlending has been addressing this need since 2005 by offering affordable loans to skilled immigrants and refugees that help them continue their careers in Canada.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Azrieli Foundation supported Windmill in helping healthcare workers in Ontario and Quebec obtain the Canadian licensing and training they required to work in their chosen fields. Since October 2021, the Foundation has helped close to 20 healthcare workers through this new initiative.
Amita* is a registered nurse in Ontario who received a loan in 2014. She told us about her journey of building a career in Canada – and how the loan changed her life.
Azrieli Foundation: What brought you to Canada?
Amita: I am from Nepal and moved to the U.S. while my husband was doing his PhD. Once he graduated, we decided to move to Canada in 2013 to find jobs.
AF: What did you do after moving to Ontario?
A: I was working as a cashier for Walmart, but my husband could not find a job. I had to redo my accreditation because I had not worked for a few years. However, I was not making enough money to study, get accreditation and pass the exam; without the degree, I could not go back into nursing.
AF: How did you hear about Windmill? Tell us about your experience.
A: I was connected to Windmill back in 2014, when I started to look for funding from the government to help me with my career. I applied for a low-interest loan and got the approval quite fast. The application process was very easy. Most of the information I needed was online and I had a few in-person meetings to help me along the way.
I was able to go back to university to get the degree I needed. Once I graduated, it was very easy to find a job. During my studies, I had the chance to take part in some internships which gave me the contacts and the experience I needed to start.
AZ: How has your life changed since receiving your Windmill loan?
A: I am now a registered nurse in Ontario, working five days a week in a field I love. Without Windmill and the low-interest loan, I would not have been able to do it. Regular loans would have been too expensive for me to repay or even get. Being a newcomer is not an ideal situation for banks. I was able to focus on studying without worrying about money.
My husband started to work and so I chose to start repaying my loan as soon as I got it. It took me two years to pay back. However, I could have chosen to start repaying it after I graduated and started working. The choice was mine.
AZ: Are you still connected to Windmill?
A: Of course! Now, I’m helping newcomers as a volunteer through the mentorship program. I provide guidance and information regarding the process. I’m really happy I’m able to help people who, like me, just arrived in a foreign country and need help starting their new lives.
This interview has been condensed for length and clarity.
* This name has been changed to protect the identity of the individual.