My Story: Yolande Zabre

My story begins in July 2010 when I arrived in London, Ontario from Burkina Faso in West Africa, where education for girls is not a priority. It is a very poor country with a lot of political corruption.

I experienced quite a culture shock moving to Canada. I faced three main challenges on my journey to a better life: a language barrier, an educational barrier and a work experience barrier. I had two options: either fight or go back home to unknown ground. I decided to tackle my challenges.

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First, I attended English classes in order to solve the language problem. While French is my first language, I needed to become fluent in English. I completed six months of general and business English training in order to move forward.

Second, my degree in accounting was not enough to secure employment. I needed a professional designation. I looked for available resources and was led to the Bridge Training Program hosted by Women Enterprise Skills Training. This program focused on immigrant women who face barriers to employment and included the preparation to the entrance examination for the Certified Management Accountants (CMA), the required accounting designation in Canada.

It was a two hour drive so I carpooled with other women enrolled in the program, travelling 250 miles weekly to attend the classes. The lectures were delivered at a university level and
in a language that I hadn’t yet mastered. I had to work harder to understand the language first and the concepts being taught. After the women I was carpooling with decided not to commute anymore and instead enrolled for online sessions, I had to find other ways to commute to Windsor. I passed the entrance examination with flying colors. But I still had two years to complete the program.

I needed employment to live and bring my dreams to fruition. Doors kept closing on me, and some days I thought I would give up and go back. I decided to volunteer to give employers the opportunity to test me without risk. Volunteering would give me the opportunity to get the experience I needed and at the same time prove myself as an asset for any organization.

A friend introduced me to Goodwill and their mission of helping people achieve their goals. At Goodwill Industries, Ontario Great Lakes (London) I was soon enrolled in an internship and mentorship by the chief financial officer. I worked very hard to demonstrate my abilities.

Goodwill trusted me and I was offered a contract position – a paid job! This job became full-time in April 2013. Goodwill did more … they invested in my education providing scholarships to pay for the last two and a half years of my education so I could complete my Chartered Professional Accountant designation. This past fall, I was promoted from Financial Analyst to Controller!