NOTES FROM THE FIELD
TO BE YOUNG AND
A CHANGE MAKER
By Madelline Romero
August 7, 2022
Gizele kayaking with brothers Paul and Kenrick at the Kababayan youth camp in 1997.
When Gizele Mirasol arrived in Toronto in 1993 from the Philippines, she wanted to move back just as immediately had that option been available. Missing old friends back home, the 13-year old had found it difficult to build new friendships in a strange new country, where new immigrants like her were called derogatory names like ‘FOB’ – Fresh off the Boat – or ‘bacon’.
Then she joined Kababayan – then KCC (Kababayan Community Centre) – as a summer student two years later. She had done it to gain Canadian work experience, but then she stayed because of the community, knowledge, and life skills that it taught her. She ended up engaging with KMC from 1995 to 2000 as youth camp facilitator for the Kababayan Youth Network, and then later, throughout the years, as resource person for Kababayan whenever needed.
“As a young person whose first time it was to live outside of my home country, there were many uncertainties,” Gizele reflects. “What Kababayan did was to help prepare me for the realities of living in Canada, including for example, the unfortunate reality of racism and discrimination of immigrants. This had been very important in my journey.”
The Kababayan Youth Network was not all about heavy discussions; she recalls thoroughly enjoying the camping, kayaking, teambuilding, and other outdoor activities that the network organized. She first did kayaking in one of the activities of the network, and to this day, it has remained one of her most loved hobbies.
Now a successful entrepreneur, Gizele credits her experience at the Kababayan Youth Network for clinching her first retail job at age 16.
Useful knowledge, transferable skills, and a supportive community that gave birth to lifelong friendships are what she says had been her ingredients for a successful and joyful life in her new home. “My experience with Kababayan had been very instrumental in my successful settlement in Canada.”
Gizele is an award-winning real estate broker, a media personality, and an events host. Wearing many different hats does not stop her though from giving back to community; she serves in the board of a couple of non-profits. Her advice to young immigrants to Canada? “Volunteer. By volunteering, you are able to both gain useful life skills as well as contribute to community. No matter how young, you can be a contributor to change.”