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Sault Ste. Marie, ON






Originally from Colombia, Sandra landed in Canada in 2007 and works as a financial advisor in a bank. Sandra founded the   Northern Ontario Latin-Hispanic Association (NOLHA) in 2013 to help newcomers and promote intercultural understanding.

I feel that Canada is a welcoming country, but there can be more things that can be done.


I used to work in Colombia in the finance industry. When I first came to Canada, I didn’t speak English. I worked in hotel housekeeping in Sault Ste. Marie. This was my first job in Canada and I have a lot of memories here. This is a photo of my first Christmas in Canada. I came to Canada with a dream to help others.

This photo holds a special memory for me. I worked on Christmas Day for Lufthansa Airlines. I wanted to show friends and family what it was like to be in Canada with this photo.

I felt proud as a woman when I visited the Women are Persons! Monument in Ottawa, as it represents the rights for women. It is important for me to live in a country with equity and to have equal opportunities. I feel that Canada is a welcoming country, but more things can be done. I came to Canada to help others, not just immigrants, but everyone. Multicultural diversity is what makes a community rich. This photo inspires me to work hard just like the woman on the statue.

November 12, 2012 is a date that I will always remember. I was one of the 77 people who became Canadian citizens at the first citizenship ceremony in Sault Ste. Marie. I got emotional. I felt that I was a part of Canada. I was given the privilege of becoming a citizen of Canada. I came from a culture that was totally different. I never would’ve imagined how challenging it would be to integrate into Canada. Although I read a lot about Canada, living here was a different experience.

When I first came to the Soo (Sault Ste. Marie) there were not many multicultural celebrations. I approached places that promoted multiculturalism. At the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library, we had a booth in the corner that showcased my culture: Colombia, and also different countries from around the world. I wanted to bring awareness about diversity. I put on my traditional hat and t-shirt. We had cupcakes to represent different countries.

I feel proud to have friends from all over the world, including Chile, India, Japan, and other places. I invited them to join the event so everyone had the opportunity to share their talents and skills with others. Twelve countries were represented. I wanted to have the chance to be part of the community. To feel that you are important. That your talents and contributions are valuable. This is what motivated me to have a booth. Before that, I didn’t feel like living in Sault Ste. Marie.

I was going through a hard time when living in the Soo. I always asked myself why I didn’t feel part of the community. Why is a small city so judgmental? This was my way of coping, through religion. I went to the Bible and started to write every day. I believe that in any religion and culture, the basis of humanity is to have love, joy, peace, and patience. At that point of my life, I was by myself. But this was a sense of encouragement for me.

I will always remember this day. This was the first time that I experienced snow. These were the happier memories. I was brand new to Canada at that time and I went with my ESL class to walk in the snow. I thought, “I’m strong. I can resist the cold.” But the next day I got sick. It was a fun experience that I shared with my friend who was from Ecuador.

I always looked at ways that I can help others who are in transition of learning English, and those who are struggling. There are not many interpreters in Sault Ste. Marie. I received a Language Interpreter Certificate so I can help newcomers at the hospital, police station, and social services for free. There are many challenges of being an immigrant in Sault Ste. Marie as the local community is close-minded, doesn’t want to change or listen, and underestimates immigrants’ contributions.

NOLHA (Northern Ontario Latin-Hispanic Association) was founded in 2013 to help people integrate and to promote awareness of our cultures to locals. I wanted to feel part of Canada. I felt nervous to initiate NOLHA at first because I felt that the community did not like immigrants. I was inspired from when I was working for a local bank, where diversity was a value. NOLHA promotes culture, education and tries to bring people together, not just Latin-Hispanic people, but the community.

Northern Ontario is a little isolated when compared to Southern Ontario. It was more difficult to live in Northern Ontario. Having lived in both regions, I felt that there’s more acceptance in Southern Ontario. In NOLHA, there are workshops and resume building sessions that help newcomers. Many newcomers struggle with building a resume but NOLHA helps with this.

I wore my traditional Colombian dress feeling proud of both my Colombian and Canadian identities. The Local Immigration Partnership committee invited me to talk about diversity. This photo was taken before I showcased my dance to an audience of around 200 people, from employers to local community members. I feel proud to share my culture through dance, food, and education. It’s about awareness and showing people that immigrants deserve the chance to be part of the community.

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