“It’s been a beautiful journey. Beautiful, and hectic,” shared Diala Charab, a Personal Support Worker at VHA Home HealthCare (VHA) who came to Canada and joined the organization in Fall 2020.
Like many frontline healthcare workers, Diala is part of a team that brings compassionate care to clients across Toronto. But what many might not realize is that Diala’s path to VHA has been quite different than most. Just months ago, Diala and her husband Yehya Al-Ayoubi were nurses on the frontlines of COVID-19 in Lebanon.
Diala is one of 10 individuals who have come to VHA through the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), a federal program that allows employers to hire skilled foreign workers to fill specific positions in Canada. Diala and Yehya were able to come to Canada and find employment at VHA thanks to the help of Talent Beyond Boundaries, an international organization whose mandate is to help forcibly displaced people use their skills and talents to move to secure futures. In October, after a mandatory 14-day isolation period, they started work at VHA.
“I always had dreamed of living abroad and Canada was always at the top of my list. When I got the opportunity in the middle of the pandemic, it was a sign to actually go for it,” said Diala.
VHA began exploring the LMIA program in 2018 when they needed more qualified staff than were available locally.
“The healthcare environment in Ontario is challenging. There is not a large enough pool of candidates for jobs like nursing and personal support,” said Ernesto Sequera, HR Supervisor, Talent Acquisition and Development at VHA. “But as an established company with a commitment to clients, it’s essential for VHA to hire top talent to deliver spectacular care.”
The HR team reached out VHA’s existing workforce, many of whom have family living internationally. Ernesto received hundreds of applications from frontline staff eager to help family members abroad join VHA. Since then, the organization has connected with individuals around the world to support them in their journey to becoming a Personal Support Worker (PSW) in Canada.
In addition to offering employment, the LMIA program lessens barriers for new immigrants with employers covering the cost of airfare as well as offering a two-year contract, which gives individuals an opportunity to apply for permanent residency in Canada with the support of their employer. Addressing the need for more trained home care professionals in Canada is a huge benefit of the LMIA program for VHA, but Ernesto says the most rewarding element has been reconnecting candidates with their families and giving them opportunities for career growth and lasting bonds with their clients and community at VHA.
For Polly Ng, who joined VHA as a PSW in 2019, the LMIA program allowed her to reunite with her sister and explore a career she’s been passionate about since childhood.
Polly has dedicated her life to supporting seniors in her community and has lived all over Asia and Europe to do just that. She put her passion for helping others to work at roles in visiting hospitals, delivering meals, and even volunteering for a hotline for isolated seniors.
“If each of us does a little bit to help – the world will become more harmonious and beautiful place for everyone,” said Polly. She decided to take her passion to the next step by becoming a PSW. In order to make her dream a reality, she applied for a PSW program in Canada with one of VHA’s education partners.
“When I was hired by VHA through the LMIA program, it gave me the opportunity to have more time with my sister and her family, who live in Canada. I think that is the most beautiful thing. VHA has helped me reunite with my sister,” she said.
“In hiring skilled workers, this program builds the Canadian workforce and helps refugees develop significant career options. It’s life changing for so many individuals,” added Diala.
“I’ll always cherish this opportunity.”
New immigrants are a vital part of Canada’s vibrant workforce. VHA remains hopeful that the Government of Canada will simplify the process for individuals seeking to live and work in Canada.