Stepping inside Archel Imperial’s tidy bungalow in Chesterville, Ont., it’s immediately apparent what is most important to the Foodland Deli Manager.
Framed photos of family back in the Philippines hang on the walls while mementoes line shelves. Her kitchen, filled with enticing smells of freshly cooked spring rolls, has all the earmarks of a well-loved gathering spot.
But it is a framed letter, hung by the front door, perfectly centred between a photo of herself and a photo of her son, Prince, that has been given the place of honour.
“Dear Archel,” the letter begins, “On behalf of the Canadian Museum of Immigration, I would like to thank you for sharing your immigration story with us.”
Archel submitted her story to the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 through www.Sobeys110.com, a website and campaign created to celebrate Sobeys’ 110th anniversary, Canada 150 and the people who have worked to build both.
Pier 21, perched on the historic Halifax waterfront, served as the gateway to Canada for one million immigrants between 1928 and 1971. The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 is also entrusted to share the larger story of immigration to Canada regardless of how, when or where those New Canadians arrived.
The Sobey Foundation was instrumental in the founding of the museum. It is in part because of this philanthropic support that the museum has become the place Canadians can explore our shared history as a nation shaped by immigration and the contributions newcomers make to Canada.
Newcomers like Archel.
“I wanted to tell my story,” says Archel, whose easy smile and infectious laugh belie a past full of seemingly insurmountable challenges. “I wanted to thank Sobeys and Canada.”
Archel left the Philippines in 2007 in search of a better future for her parents and seven siblings, but most of all for her son, whom she had to leave behind. He was just two years old.
After first working as a nanny in Hong Kong, Archel came to Canada in 2009, eventually being hired at the Winchester Foodland, which was soon taken over by Dan Pettigrew, the new franchise owner.
“Nobody cares more about, not just their job, but our people and our environment than Archel does,” says Dan. “She’s got the biggest heart of any person that I’ve ever met. She’s honestly my hero. The things that she has accomplished, I could never have done.”
Archie, as her co-workers affectionately call her, diligently sent money home to the Philippines to help her family care for her son and to send her brothers to university. She also built her parents a two-storey duplex to help protect them from regular flooding.
Eight years after leaving the Philippines, Archel was able to bring her son to Canada to live. Now 12, Prince is a happy, well-adjusted boy who loves nothing more than to play soccer with his friends.
“He is my life and strength,” Archel wrote in her letter to Pier 21. “Happy 110th year Anniversary Sobeys and 150th Year Anniversary Canada. God bless you all!”