Despite her higher education and well-paid job with many benefits, she began the process to obtain permanent Canadian residence.
Madagascar is an island southeast of Africa, which has been a crossroads of African and Asian cultures for thousands of years. Marie-Michèle’s facial features exhibit the melding of these 2 cultures. Her eyes shine with strength and determination. She was a teenager when she decided to leave her island of Madagascar one day to pursue her dream of living in America.
Despite her higher education and well-paid job with many benefits, she began the process to obtain permanent Canadian residence in 1999, ignoring her family’s concerns and doubts about her project. No one in her family had ever left the country. No one knew Canada, let alone Quebec! Nonetheless, this determined, brave young woman finally left her mother’s home 3 years later, to cross 2 continents and land in… Drummondville! It was September 2002. She was 28 years old and didn’t know a soul here, but held in her hand the telephone number of a friend of a friend.
“I was ready to do anything to start my life over here. Whatever work I had to do, I was ready!” And for the young women, whose entire family predicted the worst, there was no room for error. Marie-Michèle immediately found work as an accounts payable clerk. She laughs, remembering how her French from France ensured that everyone understood her, but that she had a much harder time understanding the local farmers she had to talk to. She handled the language just like she handled everything else: through hard work. While still working, she enrolled in UQAM’s School of Management, and earned an Executive MBA in Financial Services. Today she works as an online broker.
Marie-Michèle was single when she arrived here. She took part in all the events organized by Montreal’s Madagascan community, where she eventually met her husband, Éric, a fellow Madagascan. After driving many kilometres each time they wanted to see each other (one lived in Montreal, the other, in Drummondville), the two finally moved in together in Drummondville, with a baby already on the way. Leona Jade came into the world on January 22, 2010. Marie-Michèle was 36 years old. She acknowledges that where she comes from, it’s rare for a woman to have her first child so late in life.
“I had decided that I would have children when I felt stable, ready and able.” For Marie-Michèle, who had lived through a separation from her parents and the poverty that followed, having children was not something she took lightly. But only one child wasn’t enough, and little Iris was born 2 years later with the same determined look as her mom.
Marie-Michèle lives a North-American lifestyle, but her children receive a large part of her Madagascan values. That means they don’t often watch television at home and school is very important. No over-consumption, either. They respect adults and give thanks for what they have. But what’s most important for her is very similar to what’s most important for any other Quebec mother: taking her role as mother to heart, giving her daughters everything they need to be strong and determined and being there for them!
When she doesn’t know what to do with her baby, she doesn’t hesitate to ask her friends. She notes that Quebeckers provide a lot of details. But when she feels really lost or gets contradictory information, she does what we all do… “I ask my big sister, Fanja! She has 2 children who are older than mine, so I trust her.”
Even if she sometimes misses her family terribly, Marie-Michèle never regrets immigrating to Quebec to build her family. “Motherhood is the same everywhere: all mothers worry the same, cry with fatigue the same, get angry the same, and wake up in the middle of the night to feed their babies the same. Whether in Madagascar, here or in China, we all want what’s best for our children.”