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Queen Esther Education Foundation seeks to improve the lives of those in our community through the transforming power of education.

These Calgarians have agreed to share how their lives have been changed thanks to the educational and financial support they received from the Queen Esther Education Foundation. On May 31, more than 20 runners and walkers from Team Queen Esther will participate in the ScotiaBank Calgary Marathon www.calgarymarathon.ca to raise funds for the foundation. We welcome your donation here:

Francy’s Story:


When she came to Canada with her husband Pedro and children from Colombia five years ago, Francy Canal knew her job prospects were bleak.

With little English and few transferable job skills, the soft-spoken woman found new hope – and a viable career – thanks to the Queen Esther Education Foundation. The charity provides English as a second language training (ESL), financial support, document translation and other direct assistance to Alberta newcomers.

Francy’s life changed a year ago when she read an article in a Spanish-language newspaper about MaKami College, an Alberta based massage therapy school that works closely with Queen Esther to help immigrants in Calgary or Edmonton.

“I saw this was a big opportunity to change my life in Canada” says Francy, who recently completed her first year of studies at MaKami in Calgary and now works as a Spanish tutor for other new Canadians.

“Before, I cried many times that I didn’t have anything to do in Canada. It’s very important to help the foundation because it helps immigrants with their future,” she says with a smile.

She says the foundation paid the cost of her ESL instructors to help her overcome the language barrier. Her two children, now age 14 and 15, have learned English at school and are now thrilled to have family conversations at home in English with her and their father Pedro, who also studies as MaKami College.

“Now, we have more time for the kids and we can take some more money home to do things with our family.”

Pedro’s Story:


A farmer in his native Colombia, Pedro Palma came to Canada five years ago and quickly realized his future would likely involve cleaning hotel rooms or some other unskilled-labour work in the hospitality sector.

“It’s the only job for the immigrant people,” he thought when he arrived in Calgary with wife Francy and two children. “It’s a job, it’s money. You do what you have to do for your family.”

Times were tough when Pedro approached the foundation several years ago, in need of a loan to help pay mounting household bills. “I was very worried. I had no exit. And they helped me when I needed it most. I thought, 'WOW!’ “

Not only did the foundation provide financial support, it helped pay for ESL tutoring and supported him when he enrolled in the two-year, 3,000-hour program at MaKami College massage therapy school. He soon will finish his first year.

“They helped me focus on my studies, to learn massage, but also English. My home life is much better now,” he says with a big smile. “My kids, they are happy too.”

“Muchas Gracias for helping me, for my kids, for my family. I am very thankful. I will never forget that.”

Claudia’s Story:


Claudia Maria Lezama knew no English when she came to Canada with her husband and four children several years ago.

Like many newcomers, she landed a hotel cleaning job in Calgary, which she does not complain about despite having four years’ professional work experience as a business legal adviser in her native Colombia.

It was a job, after all, and that was that mattered most. “I came here for love. I wanted a good future for my sons.”

Her fortunes changed for the better after reading a Spanish-language ad on the Internet about MaKami College and its hands-on massage therapy training. Claudia was worried her lack of English would be a barrier, but discovered she could receive ESL training and financial support through the college’s partnership with the Queen Esther Education Foundation.

“It was incredible,” she recalls . “When I started school, I felt scared. I could only say ‘Hello’ or ‘Good Morning’. The teacher came to my home for two hours, two days a week.”

Claudia says daily life became that much easier as her grasp of English improved. Even simple tasks – going grocery shopping, for example – were no longer a problem. “In just one month my English was so much better, and I had so much more confidence.”

Graduating from MaKami’s two-year program this month as a Registered Massage Therapist, Claudia is excited for the future and loves new her career. “I love this profession. I love this country,” she says with a big smile.

“This foundation, it changed my life. The help they give, it changes the lives of so many people.

“It changed my family, and it changed my future.”

(Videography courtesy Jacqueline Eaton)