Roxanne Singlot advocates for mental health support for immigrants
By Charmaine Y. Rodriguez
With her deep understanding of the challenges faced by any other immigrant to Canada, community builder and advocate Roxanne Singlot started the Youth Empowerment Program six years ago to help newcomers handle the barriers that came their way.
Her advocacy helped her make it to the list of 20 Compelling Calgarians of 2023 by the Calgary Herald, which honours annually 20 Calgarians making their mark in the community and beyond who are worth keeping an eye on in the year ahead. Their achievements are significant but are at times outside the public spotlight.
Singlot arrived in Calgary 10 years ago from the Philippines, and her experiences have helped shape her as well as guide others, the Calgary Herald report reads.
She is from Bontoc, Mountain Province, Philippines and at 19, she moved here for a chance at a better life, and just like most, she discovered that it had not been easy.
“My story is an echo of any other immigrant story, a story of sacrifice, resilience, heartbreak, learning, unlearning, separation, courage and above all hope — hope that the people, places, relationships, beliefs, and culture we have left behind will one day be worth uprooting ourselves to start all over again in Canada,” she said in the same report.
Today, Singlot has become an important voice for young people and basically any immigrant coming to the city as a volunteer board director with the Youth Empowerment Program, under the Philippine Festival Council of Alberta.
“There were barriers, of course, that I faced,” she said. “The (previous) school system did not match Canada so there was that entire issue of getting into school. At that vulnerable age, that did affect my mental health. It’s also just a culture shock. I didn’t have the luxury to focus on school because I had to work. And there’s also the language barrier. Those are just some of the things we try to address,” she added.
“Now we’re really focused on leadership,” she said. “We’re trying to build resilience in the youth for them to make changes in their environment and be part of their environment in Canada.”
She also works as program co-ordinator for mental health and wellness with the Alberta Network of Immigrant Women.
“I was studying psychology in the Philippines and I was able to finish that here through MRU,” Singlot said. “Once I volunteered in the community, when I saw how people are living, that was my awakening moment. We need mental health (support), especially for immigrant communities, because there’s such a big gap.”
The work involves empowering immigrant women through many projects.
“Right now there are two: one is specifically with mental health, especially for new families, and the other is on employment equity. We do recognize that for women to be financially stable is huge. So what we’re trying to do is look at the barriers in terms of employment equity and find solutions around that,” she also said.