Finda

Meet Finda, a Canadian citizen who first came to Canada in 2004 as a refugee from Sierra Leone. Finda is remarkable in that she seems to radiate joy. She says that coming to Canada was a dream and becoming a citizen was the culmination of that dream. She is proud to be a citizen of a country so full of love and consideration for its people. Buoyed by that positive energy, she is confident in a bright future.

Before moving here, Finda lived for seven years in a refugee camp in Gambia. She says that conditions in the camp were terrible. There wasn’t enough food, water, or necessities like clothes to go around. Life was so hard. Finda was so excited when she found out she could come to Canada because Canada was known among the people in the camp as the best country of all. Even so, she was apprehensive. Then one night, she had a dream. In her dream, she could see a shining light with people inside of it. She felt that the dream was God showing her future in Canada; a future filled with brilliant light.

Finda says that she was very depressed when she was in Africa. In Gambia, there was nowhere she could work, or earn money and no ability to access anything like a student loan that could allow her to study. So, she felt that she had no future. She was lucky that she was able to come to Canada as a Government Assisted Refugee. She was met at the airport by people who helped her and her family settle down. She was overwhelmed by the kindness of Canadians, especially the women. Canadian women are filled with compassion she says, “they moved me from suffering—from darkness into light.” She says that she left her depression in Africa and has found a place where people respect her, like her, and help her.

Finda has found life to be much easier in Canada. It’s easier, more relaxing, and there is peace.  Shortly after arriving, Finda found work housekeeping at the hospital. She’s been working there now for eight years and she says that it’s an amazing place to work, surrounded by other very good people. Her employment was recently upgraded to permanent full-time, an important development which allows her to be able to build and plan for her future.

Finda laughs as she talks about how scared she was the first time she saw the snow. The snow fell during the night and when she woke up and saw it for the first time, she was afraid to go outside even though she knew that she had to go to work. She called her friends for advice and they offered reassurance and coaxed her to venture out. She went outside and the snow reached up to her knees. She said that she was very afraid but, at the same time, was struck by how beautiful everything was, blanketed in sparkling white. Bundled inside four coats, she couldn’t even lift her arms. Even so, she managed to get on the bus and begin learning about how to survive the winter.

Finda meets and talks to a lot of people. She knows that there are many who face real problems and sometimes they talk to her about their difficulties. However, for her, life is very good. She says that she likes the people here and she lives in a nice neighbourhood. Her face breaks into a wide smile as she explains that even though she’s the only black person in the whole apartment block, she’s never once felt discriminated against. She’s never faced it and she says that her children have never faced it either.

The future for Finda and her children is bright here in Canada. She works hard, she’s surrounded herself with strong and caring friends, and she takes advantage of every opportunity for personal growth. Right now, for example, she’s learning how to use the computer. She is grateful to the Global Gathering Place for the help she receives and, in turn, we at Global Gathering Place are grateful to Finda for her positive attitude, winning smile, and willingness to lend a helping hand. She is a shining example of why we exist.

Afroza

Afroza is a woman who has experienced true love. She describes her husband as kind, loving, passionate, intelligent, and funny. As she speaks, an image of someone truly amazing materializes under the spell of her words. The beauty of their union shines through with each catch of her voice as she describes this man who was loved so dearly and lost too soon. The careful listener also begins to get a sense of the amazing woman who was, in turn, loved by this man.

Originally from Bangladesh, Afroza came to Canada last February. She came under the family sponsorship class, helped by her brother who has lived in Canada for eighteen years. Shortly before coming to Canada, her husband suffered a fatal heart attack which plunged Afroza into a world of sorrow. However, she says that she’s not the type of person who will ever give up. Starting over is hard work, but she’s definitely up for the challenge.  

Afroza remembers how excited and happy she was to learn that she could come to Canada. It was the realization of a dream and she looked forward to living in a country with such a strong reputation for peace and for respect of human rights. She also looked forward to the egalitarian society that Canadians enjoy. The strict class structure that continues to exist in Bangladesh is something she always railed against.

Afroza grew up part of a liberal family in a conservative country. Her father was a co-pilot in the air force and was able to provide her with opportunities to travel to many different countries. Her mother was a teacher, and Afroza was raised to be strong and independent. By the age of sixteen, she remembers, she would travel alone, something normally unheard of for a young woman in Bangladesh. She would also go cycling and wear casual clothing.  Even so, it was hard to be in places alone, was impossible to work at night, and there was always a requirement to be covered.

Afroza loves Canada. She even loves the winter, which her family finds very strange. She’s frustrated that her work experience and credentials did not transfer to Canada and this has made finding good and fulfilling employment a real struggle. At the moment, she is working several part time positions and volunteering where she can. Volunteering is something that she particularly enjoys. She says it feels very good to be able to give of oneself while helping others, and the experience she gains will help with securing a better job down the road.

In the meantime, Global Gathering Place has become something that feels like home and the staff and fellow clients have become like family. She is both client and volunteer, taking part in programs and helping out with administrative tasks when she can. She is always cheerful and positive and is someone who has discovered how to live with purpose. When asked to describe what is important in life, her reply was a perfect reflection of what it is to be Afroza. She answered:

Be kind, polite, considerate, courteous, and display your best behaviour. Remember, a smile can make another person happy. Be the best person you can be. Know yourself first of all. Try to help people, try to make yourself better. Volunteer your time—give of yourself. There are people who need you.”

Welcome to Canada, Afroza. May you find peace, joy, and fulfillment.

Munzir

Right in the heart of winter, in February of 2012, Munzir came to Canada from Bangladesh. He, along with his parents and younger brother, came under the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program and were first welcomed to Saskatoon by Munzir’s uncle.

As excited as Munzir was about coming to Canada, he wishes the timing could have been delayed, even by just a single week. He missed out writing his final exam for his Grade 12 in Bangladesh by a matter of days which was such a disappointment! However, his family did not want to delay as they had been waiting for years for the news they could come to Canada. When that news finally came, Munzir remembers how excited everyone was. His mom called him to tell him and they quickly booked their flight, travelled to the capital city of Dhaka, and stayed with relatives during that last week in Bangladesh.

Having completed one year of high school here in Saskatoon, Munzir says that Canadian high school couldn’t have been more different from what he was used to in Bangladesh. To start with, in Bangladesh, school was divided into two shifts. The mornings were for girls and the evenings were for boys.  The layout of the classroom included a blackboard, a table and chair and then rows of benches. Each bench held three students. Munzir says that he didn’t find the teachers to be helpful. He sometimes wondered if the schools were mainly interested in collecting the tuition.

School in Saskatoon is completely different. There are the glaring differences, like a lack of dress code, co-ed classes, and the general layout of the classrooms. The most important difference, though, is the fact that the teachers here seem interested in helping. He remembers class on his first day. He walked in to the Accounting class and the teacher came right over to him and started asking questions to see what he knew about accounting. The classroom was full of computers, and he was able to get right into it. He says he loved working on the computers and ended up making a real connection with that teacher.

Socially, however, high school presented some real challenges for Munzir. It’s hard being a newcomer—really hard. He thinks that the adjustment is tough on his parents as well. Youth in Canada enjoy far more and different freedoms than youth in Bangladesh, and although there’s always a generational struggle, it’s been amplified by the move to Canada. Munzir is very clear though, that having to struggle in life doesn’t mean that things are terrible. It just means that living requires effort. 

He has a few more classes to finish before achieving his Canadian Grade 12. In the meantime, he has also been attending programming at GGP. He says the Breaking Ground Program, in particular, has been a real source of inspiration. He joined the program partway through, but even so, felt that he learned a lot. He specifically mentioned the inspirational speaker on the last day and the stress management workshop. When the speaker talked about how to start a small business or a partnership, Munzir learned that preparation and solid background work is absolutely key to success. He also learned that stress is a fact of life for newcomers to Canada, of all ages. Finding out that he was not the only one feeling overwhelmed was incredibly empowering. He says that he appreciated learning practical techniques to help him to deal with those feelings.

Munzir isn’t sure where his future will find him. He laughs that since he’s already survived the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar, he’s ready for whatever life throws at him. He looks forward to finishing Grade 12, getting a good job, buying a car, and moving out on his own. The car, he says, will be particularly nice. He has discovered that he really detests taking the bus.

We look forward to Munzir’s regular visits to GGP. His wry sense of humour and slow smile keeps everyone on their toes. He has perfected the art of deadpan humour which can leave us breathless with laughter. We wish Munzir all the best and are confident that his humour and determination will serve him well.  Welcome to Canada!

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