Building on personal experience

Literacy, Education & Employment

Photo: Imee Gutierrez, Program Coordinator at Holy Names House of Peace.
Professional development grant helps immigration consultant support newcomers at Holy Names House of Peace

Imee Gutierrez arrived in Canada from the Philippines in 2012. She is using her unique experience to help make the immigration process easier for others.

“As an immigrant myself, I can relate to the suffering, sacrifices, and huge adjustment that these newcomer women are facing,” Ms. Gutierrez says. “People have their own way of helping, and for me, it’s helping them fill out the forms and helping them understand why and how things are done. That’s a big thing, and it’s a relief for them.”

Ms. Gutierrez works as Program Coordinator at Holy Names House of Peace in the heart of downtown Winnipeg. Thanks to the skills and knowledge she gained by obtaining an Immigration Consultant Diploma from Ashton College in B.C., Ms. Gutierrez guides newcomers through the complicated process of becoming a Canadian citizen. A Professional Development Grant from The Winnipeg Foundation helped cover some of the costs related to obtaining the diploma.

Holy Names House of Peace is a charity that provides a warm and engaging home for 18 newcomer women from diverse backgrounds.

“Everyone is welcome in Holy Names House of Peace,” she says.

Ms. Gutierrez had helped immigrants from many different countries, including the Philippines, Myanmar and other areas of southeast Asia, as well as African countries like Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia. She helps them with some of the more complicated aspects of immigration, such as acquiring temporary resident visas, extensions, study permits, and work permits.

Many of the people Ms. Gutierrez works with are fleeing extremely harsh and difficult political and social situations, so it can be difficult to connect with these women, at least initially.

“You have to get to know who they are. When they learn that I’m an immigrant myself, they begin showing me a little trust. If they know that I learned and studied immigration, that gives them confidence,” Ms. Gutierrez says. “You have to build trust. All of us are strangers to them.”

Ms. Gutierrez has worked with Holy Names House of Peace since September 2013, after living there when she first moved to Canada, and she is pleased to be able to give back to the organization and help the newcomer women on their potentially difficult transition to Canada.

“It’s heartwarming and it’s very inspiring, because I understand now, and I can share my knowledge,” Ms. Gutierrez says. “That, for me, is what I want to do in my life.”

The Foundation’s Professional Development Grants

  • The Winnipeg Foundation budgets $100,000 annually for our Professional Development Grants program.
  • From Oct. 1, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2017, 261 Professional Development Grants were distributed to 169 charitable organizations totalling $390,933.
  • This gave more than 500 individuals and 44 groups the opportunity to benefit from professional development in some capacity.

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