Semula Horlings is no stranger to the difficulties and struggles that newcomers face. Her role as a Family Settlement Counsellor at the Immigrant Women’s Centre (IWC) has connected her to many clients, each with their own challenges as they try to make Canada their new home. The biggest hurdle for newcomers is the language barrier that exists, she said.
“I want to be a blessing to others.”
But Horlings knows the kinds of struggles newcomers face from the inside out, not just through her clients’ stories. She herself underwent that transition from being a newcomer to an active member in her Karen community in Hamilton when she came to Canada from a refugee camp in Thailand in 2006. After taking some credits to obtain a high school diploma, Horlings enrolled in Mohawk College to be a Social Service Worker. While studying full time, she also worked 20 hours/week at IWC.
Those trying times and her desire to empower other newcomers like her motivated her to take on the position as a counsellor.
“I want to see newcomers have a successful life in Canada and I want them to have a better life and I want to be a blessing to others,” she said.
Her compassion did not go unnoticed. One of her clients, Lu, spoke about Horlings’ kindness extensively, including the time where Horlings personally took her non-English speaking mother, suffering from bad vision, to the hospital. “She’s trying her best to help anyone. She’s not asking for anything; she treats everyone on the same level,” she emphasized.
As she establishes her life in Hamilton, Horlings acknowledges the help she received in resettlement assistance programs, settlement services and also the emotional support from fellow Canadian friends.
“I would like to encourage newcomers to work hard and make friends to have good connections. Canada is a good country and we can be successful if we don’t give up.”
Article by Alyssa Lai and Evelyna Kay | Illustration by Sean McCarron