“This is a peaceful place where people are friendly and they have time to chat,” declares Elham Jalali who left her homeland of Iran for Canada in 2012 because of political instability. She arrived with her husband, Saber, and two sons, Bardia, six, and Mazda, four. Her parents and sister were already living here, providing welcomed support.
Elham is a skilled jeweler, a serious student of her craft who studied jewelry design in Florence, Italy, for two years. She had her own beautiful jewelry line in Iran including gold earrings and necklaces. Elham found quick success and built a great reputation. Before going to a craft show, half of her goods would be sold. Finding similar accomplishment in Canada demands networking – something that is difficult when you’re a newcomer without connections. “My goal is to have a store here in the long term. This is like starting over. I’m not so happy about it, but I won’t give up.”
Saber too is facing challenges as he was manager of a German machinery company with hundreds of employees, and now works making signs.
Elham heard of Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia when Saber was taking language courses and encouraged her to do the same. She enrolled in the Immigrant Women Entrepreneurial Project, which included personal business counselling and hands-on experience. She says while she found it “a bit scary” to realize the steps involved in creating a business here, she learned to set goals and prepare a business plan. A course about the persuasive language of sales was particularly helpful and enjoyable. “The instructor gives you energy and she’s so positive; with her I thought I could do anything!”
Elham has also taken online Pre-Employment Workshops to learn to write cover letters and resumes. “Even when Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia can’t directly solve your problems, they always lead you in the right way for a solution,” she says, adding that she would like to take even more business courses. She attends Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia events where she often sets up a table to sell her jewelry.
“Being here is a big challenge. It’s not like home; the language is different; often people don’t understand me very well; but it’s home now for my kids. At first they missed their friends, but now they’re comfortable.” The family enjoys biking and skating and appreciates how everything is within easy reach. She socializes within the local Iranian community, but would also like to have Canadian friends.
Elham admits there are more employment opportunities in a bigger city, but she is determined to do well here. “I don’t have everything I had in Iran, but I’m happy. I want my kids to be something in the future. This is for my kids.”