An immigrant’s story
WINCHESTER – This year, Sobeys partnered with the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 to celebrate Canadians from all over the world who have helped build the grocery business in this country.
Locally, Winchester Foodland’s deli manager Archel “Archie” Imperial – born and raised in the Philippines – was chosen to star in a short video created by Sobeys telling her story of immigration to Dundas County.
A group of teary-eyed community members, colleagues, and friends viewed the video for the first time Fri., Sept. 29 on two large screens set up in the store’s produce section.
It was the second time the video had been viewed publicly, with the first time being in front of 300 people at the Sobeys corporate location in Nova Scotia for the company’s 110th anniversary.
Imperial, along with her son, and storeowner Dan Pettigrew spent three days on the east coast for the celebration.
“It has been such an honour to have the opportunity to tell my story with the Sobeys/Foodland family,” said Imperial, who recently celebrated her fifth year at Foodland “It’s been a nerve-wracking experience, but I’m so overwhelmed with support from everyone.”
According to Pettigrew, Imperial has become a hero of sorts at the local franchise.
“Nobody cares more about, not just their job, but our people and our environment than Archel does,” he said. “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.”
Imperial’s story began in the countryside of the Philippines province of Aklan in Milano, where she was one of eight kids in her family.
She started working on a farm planting rice manually when she was just 10 years old, earning about $1.25 Canadian per day to buy clothes and school supplies.
During harvest time, Imperial said she would sometimes have to walk 15 kilometres to the cornfields.
After high school, Imperial’s dream was to become an engineer. However, living in poverty meant not being able to afford to go to school. Instead, she took a Bachelor of Science in Home Technology – a course provided at a public university, and was affordable with the help of her family.
In 2005, Imperial gave birth to her son, which at the time, was a disappointment for her parents.
Two years later, she decided to work out of the country in order to give her two-year-old son a good future.
She first worked in Hong Kong as a nanny for 18 hours a day, earning $500 Canadian per month. Every payday she took a small allowance, with the rest of the funds being sent home to her family to support her brothers’ education and her son’s needs.
In 2009, she came to Canada to work as a caregiver. After her contract ended, she started a position in the bakery of Winchester’s Foodland, which at the time was owned by Andy Hamel.
One year later, she was promoted to deli manager.
“Everything was so new to me,” said Imperial. “It was a challenge to learn everything, and make a life in Canada. But I knew it would be worth it.”
In 2015, she and her 10-year-old son reunited. She picked him up from the Philippines and brought him home to Canada.
Now, after eight years of working abroad, all of her hard work has paid off – her brothers finished their degrees, she was able to build a home in the country for her parents, and bring her son home.
“If it wasn’t for the Foodland/Sobeys family, I wouldn’t be able to reach my goals and make my dreams come true,” said Imperial.
View the video below