Once a social worker, always a social worker. Well, that’s what they say about many professions, but a career in social work is something a social worker by heart cannot just leave. Joy Sapiera has been working in social work for more than thirty years, and she says that her journeying with other people have taught her about not only their resilience, but her own as well.
Joy grew up in Taal, Batangas to a public school teacher mother and a father who did odd jobs to augment the family income. She received her Social Work degree from St. Bridget’s College in Batangas City in 1983, and the same year passed the Social Work Licensure Examination. She was immediately employed by the Christian Children’s Fund a non profit organization based in North America for two years and then at the Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City where she was the Chief of Medical Social Services, the position she held for years until her family finally moved to Canada in 2006.
“I was a social worker for seventeen years prior to moving to Canada and social work/social services is the only job I know and wanted for sure to do until I retire,” Joy shares. Before coming to Canada, sheI did her research about working as a social worker, thinking it would be easy as there are lots of resources. What made it challenging was that she had two young children to care for.
It was 2000 when there was an exodus of Social Workers migrating to Canada.
“My late husband was actually the one who wanted to move to Canada. He was in the military and wanted to try something else. We decided to submit our application in June 2002, but he suddenly passed away in December 2002. I was hesitant at first to continue our application since I didn’t have my husband with me but God has planned my future and who will be against Him.”
Her two sons who were 6 and 12 years old that time came with her to Canada in November 2006. Her two daughters were left under the care of her in-laws as immigration required adoption papers as they were her husband’s children from his previous relationship. Both boys are now in successful careers, one in Kinesiology and the other in Psychiatric Nursing.
Like most immigrants, she worked at Tim Hortons, then at Winners, then in a meat processing warehouse and the last was in a tent manufacturing where she realized this is not what she expected to do in Canada. She decided to go back to school to do Community Support -Social Service Diploma to be able to work in Social Services.
“It was financially a struggle, but with faith, perseverance and trust in God, after doing my practicum at Options Community Services I was hired as a Family Support Worker in the drop-in program and then moved to work as Settlement Worker at the Immigrant Services,” she shares. She has been working in that capacity for 10 years and as a Multicultural Family Navigator with the Multicultural Early Years Services.
“Doing social service has been a passion back then and now. Social Service is fulfilling, warms your heart as you are able to make a difference. Working in social service aligns you with your core principles and values of helping people in need.”
Joy says that the Philippines is the third country with the most numbers of its citizens coming to Canada. She says that there is the need for more settlement workers to assist newcomers to be able to settle and adapt to a new life in Canada. Her advice to most of the people she meets is to be prepared and do your research, to find a mentor and do a lot of networking; to volunteer some of your time and never give up. She also says that they should also think positively and believe in themselves. As well, they should familiarize themselves with different cultural differences and keep an open mind.
Joy is actively involved in an organization of Filipino Social Service providers (FILNET) where they collaborate with the Philippine Consulate Office in providing information sessions through webinars of different topics that will educate newcomer immigrants whether they are PRs, Temporary Workers or International Students. She also volunteered with One Filipino Cooperative of BC, a non profit organization that encourages Filipinos to invest and save in a cooperative way and with the Temporary Foreign Workers Association that connects newcomers with information and resources available in the community. And with pride and a smile on her face, she shares that she is with the Filipino Canadian Heritage Society which promotes understanding and enhancing of Filipino Culture.
“There are many ways and opportunities to be involved. Volunteering connects you with a lot of people and helps you find your support system. Being with your community gives you a sense of belongingness and freedom to be what and who you are. That’s what keeps me grounded,” as she smiles with contentment.
When one serves with heart, one can never be far from success and a sense of accomplishment. Helping others was a calling Joy received earlier on in life, and it will be her calling until the day she hangs her coat up for a much needed and deserved long vacation.