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From newcomer to community anchor: Shama Farooq's journey

Surrey community organization facilitates new beginnings for immigrants in Canada
Shama Farooq immigrated to Canada with her family to secure a better future for her children and better work opportunities. Photo courtesy of PICS.

When Shama Farooq first set foot in Canada, she came with hopes and uncertainties. Like many immigrants, her aspirations were focused on securing a better future for her children and better work opportunities. 

The transition was fraught with challenges, from cultural adjustments to finding employment in her field, and during that time, Surrey's Progressive Intercultural Community Services (PICS) Society became a space where she could both learn and find employment. 

Farooq discovered PICS while scouring the internet for job opportunities. “They treated me very well, connected me to the settlement program. I was very confused about where to start; I had applied to so many places,” she says. 

Her first interaction with PICS was a turning point. The organization helped her navigate the complexities of settling in a new country and guided her toward using her previous experience in her new home.

PICS offers a range of immigration services, from language training to cultural orientation, which played a pivotal role in her successful integration into Canadian society. “When I visited PICS, they helped me in both personal and work spheres," Shama explains. 

“With workshops on how to build a life here, how to rebuild – it provided me with the resources I was looking for."

It's like visiting family

The PICS team not only offered Farooq a possibility to integrate into the Canadian workforce. “The most amazing thing is you feel like you’re visiting your family,” she states. “They understand the pain immigrants are going through. They treat you beyond their limits to welcome newcomers.”

After participating in a government-funded training program recommended by PICS, Farooq secured a practicum at the organization. This opportunity blossomed into a full-time role, where she now serves as a settlement worker.

Her current role allows her to give back to the community that supported her, and Farooq is passionate about leveraging her position to assist other immigrants in navigating their new environment. “I treat my clients in the same way I was treated,” she reflects, sharing a few words of wisdom: “Before landing in a new country, do your research, find the organizations that are helping newcomers, and how you can transfer your skills.”

Her story is a testament to the work of PICS in assisting immigrants to adjust to their new environment, thrive and contribute meaningfully to their communities.

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