If you ever underestimate Ruqia Wehliye, she will be determined to prove you wrong.
“When people give me negativity it makes me very strong,” she says.
After losing her only family at a young age, Ruqia left her home country of Somalia and moved to India on her own. She worked and put herself through school but felt the pace of life in India wasn’t for her. Ruqia decided to move across the world and came to Canada.
Ruqia arrived in Saint John in November 2017. She knew a little bit of English, but since then has advanced through several levels of English classes at the YMCA. Ruqia was able to get her Canadian driver’s licence and joined Skills Launch, a youth employability program for newcomers.
“Skills Launch teaches me about the workplace in Canada,” Ruqia explains. “It’s teaching me computer skills, mathematics and more English – related to the workplace. I love it.”
Ruqia says the most important thing she’s learned during Skills Launch is to understand the workplace in Canada. The way resumés are written in Canada is extremely different from India, and the support she received during Skills Launch to find new job opportunities was unlike any experience she has ever had.
“It’s not easy for one person, no one encourages you,” Ruqia says. “I worked in India and no one told me ‘this is good’ or ‘this is bad.’ … It’s good to have someone to guide you. Now I know how to survive in Saint John.”
Skills Launch has allowed Ruqia to pursue different possible career paths, and helped her find a job placement in Saint John. Ruqia has been working in housekeeping at the Travelodge on the west side, and her employer and coworkers love having her on their team. Ruqia has been trained to work the front desk at the hotel, and they have even trained her in some maintenance work. She has made such a good impression with her hard work ethic that her employer has extended her position, giving her close to full-time hours following her Skills Launch graduation, which took place on February 15.
Ruqia is excited for the next stages of life and is happy she’s settled in Saint John. She loves that the Port City isn’t filled with high-rises like larger urban centres, and says she feels peaceful in her new home.
“I love this city and it’s very good for me, I feel like it’s my home now,” she says.
Ruqia hopes to one day work in a higher level position so that she can afford to buy a home on her own, before she decides to settle down and get married. One of her dreams would be to work for the Government of Canada.
“What they did for me I cannot give back to them,” she says.
Most importantly, Ruqia wants to be able to help others. On a hot summer afternoon, Ruqia sits at the Saint John Regional Y and tears stream down her face. She stops speaking, slowly inhales and lets out a long breath. She begins to explain how she wants to make sure that senior citizens don’t feel the loneliness she has experienced in recent years. Her grandmother was the one who raised her as a young child and took care of her, but Ruqia lost the opportunity to do the same once her grandmother passed. As she weeps she explains that she wants to make sure senior citizens in New Brunswick are looked after by the younger generation.
Ruqia is proud of everything she’s accomplished and her positive attitude and outlook on life brightens the spirits of everyone she meets. She says she wakes up every morning and appreciates that she has food and shelter, and that if she believes she will have a great day, it will come true.
“I’m not saying I’m perfect – I’ve failed a lot. But it’s made me who I am today.”