It was six years ago this month that Ivan Cruz arrived in Winnipeg to begin his new life.
Cruz arrived here along with his parents Jocelyn and Edgardo and four siblings (Ivy, Iara, Irish and Iana) in October 2008 from San Juan, a small city in the Manila capital region of the Philippines. While it was tough leaving behind the only home he ever knew, Cruz understood it was an opportunity for his family to create a more secure future for themselves.
A lot has happened to Cruz since his arrival here. He graduated from Sisler High School, attended Red River College where he obtained his CGA Level III certification and was hired by Epic Opportunities as an accounting assistant in the summer of 2013.
One of his most proudest accomplishments occurred this past August when he passed his Canadian citizenship test. He and the rest of his family were officially sworn in as Canadian citizens earlier this fall.
Although several of his relatives already lived in Winnipeg, Cruz admits his knowledge of the city was somewhat limited prior to his arrival.
“I knew it was cold. That was the only thing I knew,” he says, laughing. “I remember getting out at the airport and it was already fall and saying ‘They have air conditioning outside?’ It was plus two. We didn’t get [that cold] in the Philippines.”
Despite that frosty reception, Cruz quickly warmed to his new home. He says one of the things that helped his acclimatization was meeting other newcomers who had already encountered the same challenges he faced and were willing to share their experiences with him.
Interestingly, accounting wasn’t Cruz’s first choice when he began considering career choices. He originally planned to study political science or law until a conversation with his sister Ivy, who was already working as an accountant.
“I was always good with numbers and I thought accounting would be the best career for me,” he recalls.
Cruz applied for a number of different jobs following his graduation from Red River. One of the first employers to call him in for an interview was Epic Opportunities. He was intrigued by the idea of working for an organization dedicated to helping others after spending the previous summer as a research assistant for Manitoba Family Services.
“I really liked the idea of giving everyone an opportunity to live [independently] and to work. I think everybody deserves that kind of opportunity,” he says.
“I also really like the people here. The people here are not putting you under pressure. Everybody is very friendly and it’s a family-type atmosphere. I really enjoy that.”
Brendon Spence has worked with Cruz in the accounting department for the past year and say’s his co-worker’s happy-go-lucky attitude has been a welcome addition.
“He has a contagious laugh. He’s always laughing and has a smile on his face,” says Spence, a payroll clerk with Epic Opportunities.
When he isn’t busy crunching numbers at work, Cruz can often be found binge watching one of his favourite TV series or catching the latest Marvel Comics movie (the Iron Man series is his personal favourite).
His real passion, though, is basketball. He’s been playing the game since he was a child. It’s a passion he comes by naturally.
“My dad and his brothers are really well known as basketball players. It puts a bit of pressure on me…to be good too but I like that,” says Cruz, who is a big fan of Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade. “I really enjoy the game a lot. It’s all about teamwork.”