AMHERST – Imagine leaving your home country to come to a place where you do not know anyone and cannot speak the language.
That was the experience for 12-year-old Ileame Panizo and her eight-year-old brother, Daniel Panizo Zaciga, when they moved to Amherst from Peru.
Ileame and Daniel’s English is at a beginners level and had their father translate.
“My father lived here and I wanted a better life,” said Ileame when asked why she came to Canada.
Ileame’s father Jhony Panizo Diaz had been in Canada two years when he decided it was time to bring his children over too.
“I wanted to have my whole family here,” said Jhony.
Even though coming to Canada was an easy decision for Ileame, leaving home was not as easy.
“I miss playing volleyball,” said Ileame. “I miss my friends from school and I miss my family there. I really miss my grandmother. I lived with her and I was close with her.”
Coming to Canada was a long wait. Jhony and his wife, Heidi Melanson, waited for over a year for Ileame and Daniel to join them in Amherst.
“It’s not a quick process and you’re not told how long it’ll take,” said Heidi, Ileame and Daniel’s stepmother. “For immigration to approve whether or not someone gets to come, especially depending on the country you’re from and the less similarities it has to Canada or a first world country, the longer it takes. So we applied, and it takes anywhere from six months to a year.”
Melanson said they are still waiting. Ileame may be considered a permanent resident but she does not have the right to vote for when she turns 18. To be considered a citizen, Ileame has to live in the country for three years.
Although the wait was long Ileame and Daniel are pleased to be in Canada. They said there is a lot for them to enjoy, but one is favored above all.
“I like the parks,” said Daniel.
Ileame thinks she will have more opportunities for a better life and so she and her brother can have the careers they want when they are older.
“I want to be a fashion designer,” said Ileame. “I’d like to create my own clothes and different kinds of fashions. I saw American’s Next Top Model a few times back in Peru and I’d see how they would create clothes and want to do it too.”
Daniel had a different job in mind. He said he wanted to put his math skills to use and find himself a decent paying job.
“I want to be an engineer.”
Both Daniel and Ileame will be starting school in the fall. Ileame is a little nervous about going to a new school not knowing the native language that well.
“I’m a little scared,” said Ileame. “I’m not really sure where to go.”
The language barrier has provided a bit of a problem for the two children. Ileame is worried she won’t be able to find someone who speaks Spanish like her. She said she has a hard time still carrying out a conversation with others in English.
“I just don’t want them to say ‘look it’s the girl that speaks Spanish.’”
Both Jhony and Heidi know there will be some problems with the children adjusting but they are not worried about either of them.
“Daniel is very sociable,” said Heidi.
“He likes to make friends,” said Jhony.
Although there is a language barrier, Daniel said he will use that to his advantage.
“All the kids can learn Spanish from me.”