Immigrant Women's Advisory Committee Profile
‘Home’ is Created Through Participation
Immigrant Women's Advisory Committee| Meet THEA MONICA LOPEZ
Thea acknowledges the traditional territory of the Lheidli T'enneh and their traditional lands cover much of the area from present-day Prince George to the Rocky Mountains. The word "Lheidli" means "where the two rivers flow together" and "T'enneh" means "the People."
MEET THEA MONICA LOPEZ
When Thea was a young girl her Papa had her read the newspaper aloud every single day. She didn’t realize then that at her father’s encouragement she was preparing to become the advocate for immigrants to Canada that she is now, by bringing attention to one of the biggest stumbling blocks that prevent them from being able to fully participate in their new home: access to quality, affordable childcare. This is an issue Thea is intimately familiar with. She worked for 12 years as a registered nurse prior to coming to Canada, and was held back from beginning the lengthy journey of acquiring her Canadian nursing equivalency due to lack of access to quality, affordable childcare. It’s an issue that impacts more than just Thea and her family: “I could have been working alongside my husband as a nurse, as a front-liner through this pandemic.” Thea states in the childcare advocacy video that she collaborated on the vision, creation and development of. This video is featured below.
WHAT IS THE GREATNESS THE LEARNING JOURNEYS PROJECT HAS HELPED YOU TO BEGIN TO UNPACK?
Through her experience with Learning Journeys and IWAC Thea feels accomplished. She feels like she has a purpose in this new land she calls HOME. Thea feels like she has something important to say and people listened to her. “I felt like my small voice mattered.” What an understatement. Championing access to affordable, quality childcare has already put Thea in the newspaper 3 times, had her interviewing with CBC and other media outlets 6 times, and connected her with Sharon Gregson of the $10aday campaign in BC and Walter Lumamba of the BC Nurses Union who called to know more about what is happening to international nurses, “he never thought childcare being the source and means to the challenge.” Even though she has a busy schedule raising her two young children and completing the process of getting her professional equivalency in Canada, Thea makes time for IWAC because she knows her contribution is not only for herself but for the immigrants who come after her. “Seeds I have planted 2 years ago,” Thea says about her program and advocacy work with IWAC,
“I am seeing it grow and later on I envision to reap the seeds not for me but for future settlers to BC Canada.”
"Thea is a passionate and powerful voice for quality, accessible childcare. As a trained nurse and advocate by nature, she harnesses her experience and strengths as a storyteller to cross-pollinate action between newcomers, nurse practitioners and the childcare sector to highlight the losses when skilled immigrant women don’t have access to childcare. She inspires us all to speak our truths, and let our fire inside illuminate the way for change."
- Andrea Solnes, Learning Journeys Co-Lead
WHAT IS THE LEARNING - BOTH FOR YOU AND FOR ALL OF US - TO BE AWARE OF AT THIS TIME?
Thea would have us know that immigrants have a yearning to participate in their new home. She brings awareness to the fact that even though many of the challenges immigrants face are not that different from other non-immigrant Canadians, the journey through those challenges may be very different because they have less family support, community connections, often a language barrier, having to cope with everything to do with ‘settlement,' and lack of ‘Canadian’ experience all at once. She also points to the opportunity cost to attaining professional advancement at the level they were at prior to immigrating: 3-5 years.
“Not only are skilled immigrants bled dry from financial strain, loss of those years just to obtain that professional advancement but Canada is also at a loss for not utilizing those skills for economic growth, participation and more hands on deck.”
WHERE DO YOU FEEL YOUR JOURNEY IS TAKING YOU NEXT AND WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE US TO KNOW ABOUT THAT?
Thea is continuing her advocacy journey. Shining a spotlight on the system barriers for immigrants arriving in Canada.
“I would love to get more connections in line with my advocacies. I would like to learn more about how to present myself when asked to talk on platforms about my experiences. I would love to be under or work alongside platforms resonating my advocacies.”
“We speak of our challenges and it is just fit that we ourselves navigate for solutions. In the beginning I thought, 'who will listen to us?' Little did I know WE spoke louder than we believed. Because we expressed our truth, we addressed reality and we spoke for our love of our family and kids. This indeed shall be a lasting mark that we shall bring moving forward in life. We have found our place in society, we are part of this land, we belong!
I am personally proud to be here in this moment. I will have the chance to tell my kids: Mama was part of a movement. Mama was part of the change!”