Mom is hoping for a safer life for her family in Canada

Photograph by: Arlen Redekop , PROVINCE
by British Columbia
Categories: Blog, Feature

Trang Le knew she didn’t want to raise her children in Vietnam.“It’s just dangerous and it’s tough there,” said the 31-year-old, who moved back to Vancouver with her three-year-old son Alex in September.After living in B.C. for nearly 10 years, she returned home to Southeast Asia in 2010, where she got married and delivered her first son. But the only work she could find was helping her husband on a pig farm, and the access to health care was limited, so she decided Canada was the best bet for her family.“The life here is better for them,” said Le, 31, who is pregnant with her second child.

While she’s already seen improvements in her life, including better access to doctors during her pregnancy, it’s a challenge to be without her husband — he is still in Vietnam navigating through the immigration process.According to Le, her husband had an interview with immigration officials Dec. 3 and they were told they would hear back in a week. She’s still waiting for that call.For now she’s picked up a job working a few days a week at a nail salon while she and Alex share a room in a three-bedroom house she rents with friends.

“Without my husband, and (with my) pregnancy and my little boy — it’s just tough,” Le said.“It just makes me so tired.”With Christmas coming, the cash-strapped mom was feeling even more strain because she couldn’t afford gifts for Alex, but a friend referred her to The Salvation Army’s Vancouver Community and Family Services — one of 27 community organizations sponsored by The Province’s Empty Stocking Fund. She registered for the agency’s Christmas assistance program and they will provide a few gifts for her son, who is hoping for some trains and race cars this year.“At least he’ll be able to have something Christmas morning,” Lee said.

According to Ayumi Shillitto, a Salvation Army caseworker, she hears many stories like Le’s, from new immigrants trapped in various waiting stages — whether they’re waiting for a spouse to arrive, paperwork to go through immigration, a work permit or even social assistance. And unfortunately, they’re never given much of a timeline.“They don’t know how long it’s going to take — maybe tomorrow, maybe three months later, maybe one year later,” said Shillitto.“It’s kind of hard to make a budget because we don’t know how long this situation is (going to be).”While it’s already difficult to start out in a new country, it’s even harder around Christmas time, she said.“They’re always wondering (what they’re going to do) for the Christmas gifts,” Shillitto said.“They want to make sure their own kids have a good Christmas.”

Thanks to the fundraising efforts of corporate sponsors, local business and community supporters and, of course, Province readers, the Empty Stocking Fund raised more than $347,000 last year. That money goes toward 27 different community agencies across B.C., including The Salvation Army, to help buy gifts and food hampers for families in need.

Story Credit: Larissa Cahute, The Province