The eighth annual I am London campaign showcases immigrants who provide essential services in London. Join us on the 8th of every month until December 2021 to read about our Faces of London.
Ester Garcia, Owner, Immanuel’s Kitchen, “Together we can all contribute our bit in making the city of London a peaceful, loving and a caring community,”
Ester Garcia stopped running once she got to London. No more hiding, she decided, as she made peace with the unending physical, mental and emotional trauma she suffered in her childhood home and her abusive marriages. She credits these traumatic life experiences as the motivation for her work with the homeless in London. “That’s where I get my compassion,” she says, “because I know what it is to be rejected, abused and unloved. Now I know that I had to go through all of that to have the heart I have today.”
Ester who is deeply spiritual, came to Canada from Texas in 1986. Throughout her life her faith has given her strength and guidance, especially in difficult times. She started Immanuel’s Kitchen on Dundas Street as a Christian kitchen hiring people with disabilities, tying up with Hutton House Association for Adults with Disabilities and Leads Employment Services which provides specialized services for people with disabilities, to source her employees. She encourages all to get involved in helping each other and giving back, “Together we can all contribute our bit in making the city of London a peaceful, loving and a caring community,” she says. Her dedication has extended to mentoring young women with disabilities to pursue their education, using her own experience as an example.
Throughout her life, Ester has been in and out of shelters, even being homeless for a while. She advises, “Don’t disrespect the homeless, you have no idea what has brought them there.” She lived at a women’s shelter with her children when she moved to London, where the London community helped her with housing, counselling, and provided a safe space for her and her children.
As a way of returning her blessings to the community, Ester contributes 10 percent of the revenue from Immanuel’s Kitchen to run her recently registered charity “Immanuel’s Helping Hand” which feeds the homeless along Dundas Street. She has tied up with a number of local London businesses and private donors who support her work with the homeless. “I have provided them with meals, blankets, clothing, and other daily life essentials,” she explains.
The building where Immanuel’s Kitchen was based was shut down during the pandemic, but Ester has continued to operate from a different location, finding ways to provide daily meals to the 25-30 homeless people who depend on her generosity. Immanuel’s Kitchen has partnered with United Sikhs, Old East Village Cares, and members of London’s Calvary Church in providing help to the less fortunate.
“We can all learn from the homeless,” Ester says, “they are generous with each other. You give them a piece of bread and they will share it.”
Innocent Migabo, Hospital Cleaner, “Whatever job you do, know that you are making a difference in your community!”
“I did not choose Canada, Canada chose me,” says a grateful Innocent Migabo. After spending more than four years in refugee camps in Namibia, he arrived with his family on a bitterly, cold freezing day in December 2017 to begin his new life in the country that offered his family safe refuge.
Innocent and his family have settled down quickly in London, something he attributes to the combined efforts of their private sponsors, settlement workers, teachers, classmates and friends from his neighbourhood. In short, the London community that welcomed him.
Innocent is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he trained as a nurse. It was a natural progression to pursue a career as a personal support worker (PSW) in Canada, but first he had to upgrade his English-language skills although he is very comfortable with French.
As he prepares for his chosen career, Innocent has found work in the housekeeping department at London Health Science’s Victoria Hospital. He believes that the work he does contributes to the welfare of the patients and the hospital staff, especially during these stressful months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Innocent has felt encouraged by the appreciation that he has received from the hospital administration, the patients and his colleagues for showing up on the frontline everyday even though he was worried for the safety of his family. It is so good to hear the words, “Thank you for what you are doing,'' he says. Innocent learned how important it was to protect himself and others by following the regulations regarding personal protective equipment and sanitizing.
Innocent’s children love being in Canada, where they have blossomed into happy young people, who enjoy the outdoors and their schools. With five kids under the age of 12, it is a lot of fun and a lot of hard work but “London is a beautiful place to live and raise children,” he says. He is committed to London and offers these words of encouragement to newcomers: “First of all”, he says, “know that London is your home. Work hard to develop your English skills and do not be afraid to go back to school in order to get whatever qualifications you need. Lastly, whatever job you do, know that you are making a difference in your community!”