As told to Madelline Romero on June 16, 2022
Just two years ago I was a student myself on these very school grounds where I now stand, eagerly – if a little bit anxiously – waiting for the students to arrive. It’s a clear summer day coinciding with the end of the school year, and my organization, Kababayan Multicultural Centre, at which I’m the new Community Outreach Coordinator, is hosting a little get-together to celebrate the students’ hard work during the year and get to know them a little bit better.
The Northview Heights Secondary School at North York hosts students, many of them from immigrant families, from many countries. That it’s located in the Bathurst area where many Filipino-Canadians live has also given it a huge Filipino student population, many of whom are children of Filipinos who had come to Canada as caregivers.
Anyone familiar with the story of Filipino migration to Canada through the Caregiver pathway is also familiar with anecdotes of long family separation, agonizing family reunification, and discomfiting settling into Canada by children and young adults. I know because I have been there. My Filipino mother came to Canada as caregiver, and I and my younger brother followed suit a few years later. I’m lucky it took us only that long to reunite; other families not so.
Students begin to trickle in at the school gym, and my social worker heart screams ‘Yeaaahhhhh!’; more students arrive than those that had confirmed, and I think that for a first in-person event in a long time, this is not so bad. That we are able to do an outreach at the school today is also thanks to the big support of Principal Alison Maclachlan and Mr. Florentino Gecolea, one of the school´s teachers. I try as much as possible to chat with all of them, we cheer, we stuff ourselves with little snacks, we sing karaoke (where Filipinos are, so is a karaoke), we have a great time.
We are a community with shared history and experience, both good and bad. I still remember what it feels like to arrive in a new school, a new country. I know what it feels to be confused, as if my body and soul are being pulled in different directions. And most of all, I know how it is to dream and hope for a better life, a better me. I remember. And I’m here to help.