Inside Story

Leanne is often brought on board to strengthen an existing team. In 2011, she fulfilled a contract with Manitoba Public Insurance, where she served as editor of the crown corporation’s internal newsletter for internal audiences.This drew on Leanne’s love of story telling and story design.Her role included developing the monthly story lineup, assigning and editing stories contributed by a talented writing team, writing articles herself, coordinating the layout, final senior level approvals, printing and distribution and posting of the newsletter to the company’s internal website. The article featured here, Sharing stories helps new Canadian feel ‘at home’, can make us all proud to live here in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada – even in the winter.

What Leanne Wrote

Sharing stories helps new Canadian feel ‘at home’

It’s difficult not to get swept up in the generous spirit and enthusiasm of Daniela Petrovski, identify verification clerk, ID Verification and Data Integrity. Daniela is a burst of energy as she recounts her journey from her childhood home in the small country of Macedonia (former Yugoslavia), to Winnipeg in the summer of 2006 with her husband and young son. She only knew a few words of English and describes her first weeks as “shocking”.

“We had a friend to help us get an apartment but we didn’t even know where to go to buy food,” she said.

All that has changed, and while Daniela is proud of her Macedonian heritage (it is the real homeland of Alexander the Great and Mother Teresa), she embraces Winnipeg and Canada as her new home. She considers it a window to the world.

“When I got my citizenship I had to answer the question ‘What does it mean to me?’,” Daniela said. “I wrote, ‘It means that I am a citizen of the world. With a Canadian passport I can travel around the world or if I don’t have money for that, I can see the world here in Winnipeg as people are immigrating here from all over and bringing their culture’.”

Daniela was asked to share her answer at the official Canadian citizenship ceremony. Daniela’s words of “home” have also found another, larger audience. She is one of the authors of The Past is Another Country, a book featuring stories from 12 new Canadians from China, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Korea, Macedonia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, Taiwan and Uzbekistan.

Daniela, like all of the book’s contributors, was a participant in the Finding Your Voice writing program for new Canadians offered at the Millennium Library. Program facilitator Janine LeGal felt that the stories being shared needed to be heard outside the classroom. “I was so moved by what everyone was sharing. I was sure that what they had to say could offer inspiration and knowledge to help ease some of the challenges for those new to Canada.”

This was indeed the case for Daniela, who had joined the class to improve her English writing skills. “Seeing that almost every newcomer was going through the same issues of acceptance was a very important step for me on the path to feeling at home in Winnipeg,” she said. “Janine was very open-minded and helped us to not be afraid to put our words on paper. Who would have thought I’d have my own ideas expressed in English in a published book?” she muses.

Janine adds, “Daniela brought so much to the group. Her desire to learn from others and share what she’s learned along the way was contagious. She really opened our eyes to the joys and opportunities of sharing our world experiences and building connections right here in our own communities in Winnipeg.”

Daniela’s story, Home, recounts her strong connection to her homeland that included idyllic years spent living with her grandmother in a small village in Macedonia while her parents continued to work in Munich, Germany. She credits these years for giving her the freedom and courage to explore many different experiences and to always feel “at home” in the places she has discovered. Daniela’s employment at Manitoba Public Insurance began as a temporary placement through the Employability Skills Program offered through Employment Solutions for Immigrant Youth.

Daniela first trained in Driver Licensing with Corrie Lepieszo, clerk 2, Driver Records. “Corrie gave me a great first impression of Manitoba Public Insurance,” Daniela said.“She was so willing to explain things and help me understand if I made mistakes.” Daniela also credits Corrie for encouraging her to apply when a term position came up in the mailroom. “It was my first official job interview in Canada and I was so nervous!” Daniela said.

A succession of term positions eventually led to a permanent position.

How does she use what she’s learned from adapting to a new home in her role here? Daniela quotes Socrates: “’I know now how much I don’t know’. You constantly have to be asking questions and open to learning new things.” And what can she share with us about living and working with our new Canadian neighbours and co-workers? “

This is a very accepting place but sometimes people don’t know how they should talk to someone who is from another country so they may choose not to talk to them at all. We newcomers are always worried that we will be judged because we don’t speak English well or don’t understand the culture. But once we talk to each another, we see how much we can learn from one another,” Daniela said.

Manitoba Public Insurance

October 2011

Research, interviews, writing, editing, story lineup, layout and print coordination