What It Takes: An immigrant’s journey from Zimbabwe to Canada

PICTURED BELOW: Fadzaiishe Ziramba, second from right, pictured in 2006 with her mother, Ella Ziramba (left), father Kuziva Ziramba(second from left) and brother Andrew Batiraiishe Ziramba (right) shortly after they arrived in Canada.

This is the first of a six-part series by Global News intern Fadzaiishe Ziramba that tells the personal stories of six new Canadians and what it took for them to move to Canada. In this first story, Ziramba describes her own family’s experience. Our next story in the series appears on Wed., Aug. 21. 

Many immigrants across Canada have remarkable stories about the sacrifices they made to make Canada home. Mine is just one story, albeit incredible.

I was born in the sun. Where tangerine sunsets and sunrises paint the sky sublime. Greenery is only one of the colours that hangs like a tapestry on the landscape. Zimbabwe is where my story begins.

Life was pleasant in what seemed like a land of milk and honey. It was a dream until the nightmare of corruption crept in and marred the landscape.

Before corruption violently ushered in duress, my father worked as the chief economist in the Ministry of Finance. My parents owned a home in Mabelreign, Harare — a low-density suburb in the capital city of Zimbabwe.

They drove a Toyota Sprinter, a sport version of a Corolla they imported from Japan. My father drove several government vehicles while on business. He was most fond of a Land Rover Discovery.

When the government dizzily ventured into corruption, he was faced with two choices: join the evil in blind solidarity or quit and flee to a haven. He chose the latter.

WATCH BELOW: How Canadian immigration policy compares to the United States

Having earned a full scholarship from the World Bank, my father journeyed to Massachusetts to pursue advanced studies in economics at Williams College.

I was three years old when, along with my mother and brother, I joined my father in the U.S as he completed his studies. I lived in the U.S for three months, two in Michigan, and one in Massachusetts.

After my father completed his studies, my parents began to consider settling in the U.S. This was shortly after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Converting my father’s study fellowship visa into permanent residency at the time seemed to be a near impossibility.

My parents decided Canada — what my father called a land of “green pastures” — would be a more suitable place to settle.

A recent poll by Ipsos Public Affairs highlighted the fears some Canadians have about immigration. The poll found that four in 10 Canadians had a negative view of immigration, with 37 per cent describing it as a “threat” to white Canadians.

Yet Canada needs immigration and is counting on it to sustain the country’s population.

Canada’s total fertility rate was 1.543 in 2016, according to Statistics Canada. Developed countries like Canada need a birth rate of around 2.06 to renew their populations without immigration, StatsCan says. The last time Canada was able to grow its population base on birth rates alone was 1971.

And a 2018 report by the Conference Board of Canada found the country’s economy would weaken without immigration.

Canada needs immigrants, just like me and my family.

PICTURED BELOW: Fadzaiishe Ziramba, second from right, pictured in 2006 with her mother, Ella Ziramba (left), father Kuziva Ziramba(second from left) and brother Andrew Batiraiishe Ziramba (right) shortly after they arrived in Canada. 

Handout: Fadzaiishe Ziramba

Handout: Fadzaiishe Ziramba

But settling in Canada was not an easy feat. My parents did not know anyone in Canada. They lived in meagre spaces for a time and worked menial jobs, below their qualifications, to make ends meet.

My father did janitorial and factory work. For several years, he used his high school metalwork training and a Canadian trade certificate to weld.

My mother, fortunately, quickly found a job related to her educational background in office administration.

To shield us from the struggles they faced while settling in Canada, my parents left me and my brother with our grandparents in Zimbabwe before travelling to Canada. My mother told a then three-year-old me that she would visit the U.S. on a brief trip that included finding the choicest candy to bring home for me.

In 2001, I sat on my uncle’s shoulders and watched from a panel of windows as my mother flew away. As my sweet-tooth tingled, I joyfully awaited what I could only imagine would be the finest candy.

I did not see my parents again until 2006. My parents were quite sorrowful when we were separated. Leaving us in Zimbabwe was an inexplicably painful, yet necessary decision. They spent five long years working tirelessly to pave a path for us to join them here in Canada.

The Canadian government helped to reunite us.

My parents were given an interest-free-loan to buy plane tickets for me and my brother. My father could not afford to fly to Zimbabwe to accompany us. The government arranged for someone to bring us to Canada from South Africa and through the Netherlands.

We were too young to travel alone.

I was almost nine years old when I finally arrived in Canada. I recall hugging my parents at the airport as though they were old friends with whom nothing had changed. I also remember an unfamiliar scent. The smell of cold air. It was winter when I arrived.

I am now 22 years old and I’ve been in Canada for about 13 years. I am in my final year of journalism studies at the University of Toronto and I’ve been a straight-A student throughout my post-secondary academic career.

I am also a social media desk intern at Global News. I strive to live the dream my parents dreamt for me when they flew me to Canada. The dream of a life of excellence.

My older brother now has his own family and is a program officer for the federal government.

A few years ago, my father graduated with another master’s degree in policy studies at Queen’s University. He is now working as a lean manufacturing expert in the automotive industry. He has transferred his quantitative analytical skills from economics and policy to the management of production systems.

My mother is enjoying early retirement.

I am confident the future holds even greater things for my family.

Despite the challenges immigrants must navigate when living in the Western world, Canada holds many opportunities for great success for the diligent.

Remember when I mentioned my mother promised to get me the most mouthwatering candy? Well, my parents have spent the last 13 years showering me with all of the candy one could want. My dentist would likely argue I’ve probably consumed too much already.

Fadzaiishe Rebecca Ziramba is a student at the University of Toronto. She worked as a social media desk intern at Global News this summer.

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