For newcomers to Canada and Calgary, Fiona Fairley provides a much-needed welcome with open arms. But more than that, she offers support, compassion and genuine friendship.
A career counsellor at the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association, Fiona has been a safety line, a shoulder to cry on and a bridge to a brighter future for immigrant women preparing to enter the workforce since 2012.
She says her biggest challenge is balancing the requirements of the program with the time that she’d really like to spend with each of her clients. Her desire to connect more deeply is telling, given what the women she work with say about her:
“Her kindness, patience and empathy are boundless. I went through some really tough times struggling to build a life in Calgary, and she never gave up on me,” says one, citing a stream of regular emails, invitations to come by for a visit, and potential contacts and job opportunities. “Those emails and chats always put wind in my sails!”
“If it wasn’t for Fiona’s constant encouragement I would have given up,” says another.
“Fiona Fairley is a strong woman who understands other immigrant women. She not only helps you with pointing out of the thing you are capable of, but also she honestly offers her friendship,” says a third.
For her part, Fiona says simply, “sometimes it takes someone else to shine a light on what they have to offer.”
An immigrant to Canada herself, she says her self-esteem was very low and she saw obstacles and barriers everywhere she looked after emigrating from Britain. Those difficult times gave her an appreciation of the struggles faced by the women she works with.
Ultimately, she adds, the connections she makes sustain her passion for helping.
“I am always very excited about who I am going to meet during the day,” she says. “I like to give clients an avenue of hope and see them walk away feeling better than when they came in.”