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Meet Ponsiree Sae Lim, a 38-year-old single mother who was born in Thailand and is determined to be an independent woman here in Hamilton.

Before coming to Canada in 2004, she managed her own hair salon. She arrived as a visitor with her former partner, a Canadian teacher. They lived together and had a son, Matthew, who is now six.

After her relationship ended, she was without family, money or English language skills. With a two year old son, she found enough strength to start a new life. She knew that the path of not having a traditional support system, not mastering the English language and not having permanent residence status would not be easy.

“I had a Thai friend who gave me the basic information I needed to begin a life on my own,” she says.

Ponsiree applied to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.


“I was determined to show them (Immigration) that I would, eventually, succeed.”

“Immigration wanted me to leave, but I thought of my son and that both father and mother needed him. I was determined to show them (Immigration) that I would, eventually, succeed.”

When she obtained her status as a permanent resident, Ponsiree went to ESL classes and took advantage of programs offered to mothers, such as Early Years, and other activities at her local library.

“I was very grateful for what Canada was giving to me, but I wanted to provide the best I could for my son and I knew that I would only achieve my goals if I started to work. I did not want to wait forever, go back to school, and then find a job to depend on someone. I wanted to get the lifestyle I longed for quickly.

“I started to work as a sushi chef at a local Fortinos. When I went to work I felt very happy, and I knew this was the job for me.”

She was later offered a full-time job, and soon after became a team leader, training other employees and managing the sushi franchise.

Ponsiree says she worked hard and had long shifts. Eventually she was given the opportunity to buy the franchise.

“I did not think twice. With what I had saved and with my good credit history, I went to the bank and they approved my loan.”

For other women who want to succeed in their own business, she offers this advice:

“You have to love what you do. If you have a talent or transferable skills, use them. For example, I love cooking.”

“It important to have a balance between your work, your family and your community. This job allows me to have time with my son and be part of the Thai community activities.”

“Don’t wait for people to give you things. You have to help yourself first.”

“Keep your credit in good standing, be organized, plan and set your goals.”

Ponsiree not only provides one fulltime and one part-time job to others, she is also a friend to the many customers that come exclusively to see her. She has grown as a strong part of her community.

-Maria Antelo, Hamilton Community Legal Clinic | Photo by Michelle Drew

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