After making the difficult decision to flee his home country of Colombia and become a refugee in Canada, José Gómez and his wife are grateful to be raising their two sons in their Kitchener home. While working full-time assisting the Housekeeping team at Langdon Hall, José dedicates his personal time to enjoying his young family.
José grew up with his seven brothers and sisters in Cali – the most populous city in southwest Colombia. After beginning his career working at a bank, José worked his way up to Regional Coordinator overseeing 70 branches.
“I love working with people and providing excellent customer service,” says José. “But I also knew it was important to continue my education, so while working at the bank I went to university full-time to earn a degree in finance and international business.”
José was working towards a promising career in the financial industry; however, there were many conflicts in Colombia at the time between paramilitary groups, crime syndicates and communist guerrillas that had been ongoing for decades. All sides were fighting for different reasons and engaging in drug trafficking, terrorism, and numerous human rights violations. This warfare resulted in more than five million civilians being forced from their homes between 1985-2012 – including José.
It was one of the illegally armed guerrilla communist groups that drastically altered José life. “My position at the bank involved distributing money between branches,” explains José. “Then one day I started receiving calls from an unknown person asking for personal information about clients. At first, I insisted that I didn’t have access to this information but the calls started to increase and become threatening towards my family.”
Not knowing whom he could trust even within his own company, José decided that he could not put his family at risk by not complying with the guerrillas’ demands so he made the difficult decision to leave the country.
“I lived in New Jersey for two years until one day I received a call from an old friend who had moved to Canada,” recalls José. “He encouraged me to travel to the Canadian border to tell my story and seek refugee status.”
Two weeks later José met with the Canadian immigration office and on November 12, 2004, he crossed the border to Canada. The process took another six months as he waited to appear in front of a judge in Toronto who – after extensive questioning – approved his request for refugee status. José was now permitted to apply for permanent residency.
Two years later in 2006, José received his permanent residency and could now sponsor his wife to join him in Canada. It took another long year before the process was complete and José was finally reunited with his wife in May 2007.
“It was a wonderful feeling to finally have my wife with me in our new country,” recalls José. “We now joke that 9 months after she arrived, our son was born,” he says with a smile.
José was finally ready to truly begin a new life, with his wife by his side, a growing young family, and a warehouse job at the most valuable company in Canada – Blackberry Limited. As he attended courses to perfect his English, the company still saw his potential and encouraged him to apply for a position as Warehouse Shipper.
“I was truly fortunate to work for Blackberry for seven years, followed by a few months at Christie Digital,” explains José. “Unfortunately, the industry went through many changes and many staff were laid off.”
One day in July 2018 while shopping at Costco, José ran into a friend who worked at Langdon Hall and was looking to hire a House Porter for the hotel. José was happy to explore the opportunity and it wasn’t long before he was hired as a full-time House Porter.
“I love coming to work every day at Langdon Hall,” says José. “The people make it feel like a second family and working Monday to Friday allows me to spend valuable time with my family.”
José’s daily routine involves helping the Housekeeping department in a variety of ways to prepare for arriving guests and ensure current guests are comfortable. He is there to help his team with any incoming requests and always assists with a smile.
Last winter José applied to the International Credential Assessment Service of Canada and was approved to have his Colombian education recognized in Canada as a Bachelor of Business degree. Now with a Canadian university degree, José has numerous possibilities for his future.
“I’m not sure what the future holds, but I know working at Langdon Hall allows me to focus my time on my two boys and loving wife,” explains José. “For now, I will continue to enjoy every minute watching my boys grow up in this beautiful country.”