Josh reflects on his journey from Cuba to New Brunswick

Josh, right, with his family exploring the coast of New Brunswick.

Every day in Canada, Josh Mesa says, is like “heaven.”

After years of coping with uncertainty and struggling to make ends meet for his family as a refugee and labourer in Trinidad and Tobago, Josh, a successful TalentLift candidate now working for Area52 in New Brunswick, says he can’t stop counting his blessings.

Originally from Cuba, Josh and his wife Amy worked for many years as accountants before deciding that the economic crisis in Cuba would never allow their family to thrive, let alone be conducive to a minimum standard of living.

They made the decision to flee Cuba in 2018 and became refugees in Trinidad and Tobago, where they could not find work other than casual labour, stocking shelves, and picking fruit. It took Josh and Amy two years to save enough wages to purchase a laptop, after which he promptly began enrolling in programming and coding courses so that he could apply for better work and possibly immigrate. “I wanted a better life for my family, and especially my daughter,” he says.

However, even with their hard work in Trinidad and Tobago and Josh’s in-demand technology skills, finding a pathway to a better life proved incredibly difficult. The couple tried for many years to seek out different forms of migration. On December 2, 2021, after grueling years of working casual, physical jobs without formal refugee status, they felt they had run out of options and booked plane tickets to Central America, with the intention of walking to the US or Canada and claiming asylum.

Fortunately, fate intervened. The very next day, on December 3 (a date Josh says he’ll never forget), the Canadian government announced another phase of an economic mobility pathway program that Josh and Amy qualified for, despite their lack of official status. In the months after, Josh connected with Area52, an innovative New Brunswick-based company that helps seafood processing companies automate their workflow. After conducting interviews, they were impressed with Josh’s technical and programming expertise, and his bright, warm personality, but unclear on how to facilitate a move to Canada.

After connecting with TalentLift staff, who provided guidance and support on the paperwork, Area52 felt confident enough in the sponsorship process to offer Josh employment and make his move to Canada happen, along with his wife and daughter.

Three years after they first found out Canada could be an option for them, the family is now thriving. At first, Josh was concerned his daughter, who is in grade seven, would struggle to fit in because of her lack of English. But now he says, almost a year after their move, she chats fluently with her new friends and is learning guitar on an instrument given by one of Josh’s coworkers as a ‘Welcome to Canada’ gift. Amy began to study and became licensed in financial planning. She’s working with an insurance company while studying for further qualifications in the field.

When asked to reflect on how much their life has turned around in the past ten months, after years of struggle in Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago, Josh says it’s difficult to express the entirety of his emotions. “TalentLift was a blessing for us; they reached us at the moment when we most needed it.”

He hopes more Canadian employers will connect with TalentLift to learn how they can take on more employees from refugee situations. “When TalentLift takes on a candidate, they will do anything for them. The team is so humble, kind and confident. I feel like they’re family, and they treat us likewise.”

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