Calleigh

In May of 2009, Calleigh was excited to begin a new life here in Canada. She was full of energy, full of hope, and had high expectations for her future. With her husband at her side, she was confident that her youth and outgoing nature would see her through every challenge. Four years on, Calleigh is again full of energy and hope, but looking back, she can’t quite believe just how many challenges she’s had to face. Would she have still made the decision to leave Korea had she known how difficult things would be?

Calleigh came to Canada on a visitor’s visa while her husband was here working. This meant that she could neither work nor attend post-secondary education. Her plans were to improve her English. Finding an English class that would accept her on a visitor’s permit was difficult but she was relieved when she was able to join classes at Global Gathering Place. She was pregnant at the time, and wasn’t in classes very long before she had to withdraw.

The birth of her son marked a real turning point in Calleigh’s life. The enormous responsibility of motherhood amplified the frustration she felt at not speaking English well. When her son was sick, for example, her inability to be able to talk freely with the health care providers left her with a feeling of helplessness. She could not continue her English classes with a newborn and she hadn’t had time to form the friendships she needed for that all-important support network. She says that she felt isolated and alone and that her personality changed as a result. Her confidence was replaced by fear and her laughter was replaced by tears.

Calleigh, however, managed to turn these challenges into learning opportunities. She made time for careful self-reflection and took some very important lessons to heart. She learned the importance of attitude and the power of positive thought. She learned to stop comparing Canada to Korea. She learned to quit making excuses, she learned to ask questions, and most importantly of all, she learned how to face her fears.

When Calleigh arrived in Canada, her English ability was very low. During her time here, she has transformed herself from someone who struggled to communicate her most basic needs into being someone able to communicate fluently in most situations. She has attended English classes when she could, and has made exceptional use of some simple learning techniques. One such technique is journaling.

Calleigh’s journals are works of art. They contain words of encouragement as well as notes on difficult grammar rules. They chronicle the transformation of her English ability, and describe her thoughts and experiences as she lived them, providing a record of both joys and sorrows. August 3, 2013, was recorded as a day of remarkable joy. In her own words, she wrote:

“The dawn was breaking and the sunrise had started. The whole creation had been waking up from sleep by the intense sunrise. It was amazing, and my sleeping son under the sunrise looked so lovely.”

Calleigh was describing the journey that she took on the very last step on the long, long process of obtaining Permanent Residency.  She and her husband crossed the border into the United States as temporary residents of Canada, and immediately crossed back into Canada as Permanent Residents, thus marking another turning point in their lives.

Calleigh’s future is now. She looks forward to completing the process of obtaining her Canadian credentials so that she can work once again in a dental laboratory. There is always more to do, but with her husband at her side, she is confident that her new-found wisdom and outgoing nature will see her through every challenge.

Almas

Originally from Iraq, in November of 2009, Almas and her teenaged daughter moved to Canada from Syria, where they had been living as refugees since 2007. When she arrived, Almas didn’t speak any English; she wasn’t able to recognize the alphabet and she found everything impossibly difficult. She began her life in Canada at her sister’s home, crying all the time and eating too much. Almas, however, is not someone willing to just give up, and after two months, she picked herself up and went out to look for help.

Almas says that she found help at the Global Gathering Place. She joined the Literacy ESL class and started making friends. The office staff helped her with all types of problems and questions, and she says how much she appreciated the fact that she didn’t need to make appointments first. Although Almas has as sister here in Canada, her sister works a lot of hours and isn’t always available to help. As a result, the staff at GGP became like a second family and her life changed—no more tears, no more overeating.

Almas said the greatest gift she received was patience. Communicating in English was nearly impossible, but everyone was patient with her. People listened and did everything they could to understand what she was trying to say. No one ever laughed at her mistakes and she felt encouraged to keep trying. She describes how she used the translation service on her computer at home to print out key phrases that she knew she would need during the day. Slowly, as the result of much effort, Almas began learning English.

Almas was initially supposed to be resettled in Germany. When she was given that news, although she was pleased at any opportunity to build a new life, she was terrified at the prospect of losing contact with her remaining family members. With her father and mother both deceased, Almas felt that it was more important than ever to maintain some family contact. She thought about her much-loved and much-missed sister in Egypt whom she hadn’t seen in fourteen years and she couldn’t bear the thought of losing touch with her other sister in the same way, so she asked if there was any possibility that she could join her sister in Canada instead. Almas must have made a very strong case, for after five days, she received word that she would be able to move to Canada.

The actual move took an additional ten months. Ten months of excitement, of trepidation, of anxiety. Almas’s sister told her how nice Canada was. She told her not to worry about the snow and reassured her that Canadians were very friendly to people of different cultures. She told her it was safe—that there were no bombs. Almas says that she imagined that her life in Canada would be easy. Learning English would be easy, getting a job would be easy, driving a car would be easy.

Almas doesn’t think that she’ll ever get used to the snow, and she has discovered that English is definitely not easy to learn. She is grateful for all the help she has received, and she is putting all of her efforts into meeting her goals.  She found a job as night cleaner, and she notes that for three years, she never enjoyed a weekend off. She studied during the day, worked at night, and planned her future. She has also now achieved her Class 5 driver’s licence and purchased a car.  That means no more freezing while waiting for a bus!

She knew that her daughter wouldn’t be at her side forever, so Almas started the process to bring her fiancé from Iraq to join her in Canada. She hadn’t seen him for five long years when he finally arrived. They were married two months ago, and Almas says that she has found happiness.

She said that she will be forever grateful to Canada for helping her out when she needed it most. Her future is bright, and she is confident that in maybe five or ten years, life will be much easier. She dreams of the day when she will become a Canadian citizen.  However, with the new requirement for Level 4 English, she knows that she has to do  a lot more studying. For her, the key is to achieve fluency in English and she sincerely wishes that she could attend more English classes.

Almas is an inspiration to everyone at Global Gathering Place. She has demonstrated that hard work, patience, and determination bring amazing benefits.

Shengyun

About ten months ago, Shengyun and her family moved to Canada at the urging of a close friend. Although this friend lives in Toronto, he readied a welcome for them in Saskatoon, taking time off to drive Shengyun and her family around their new city, find them somewhere to live, and introduce them to the services and agencies that could smooth their transition to life in Canada.  One of the first places Shengyun was brought to was Global Gathering Place. She was pleased to learn about the wide range of programs we offer and ever since, has been actively participating in everything she can, drinking up the knowledge she knows she’ll need to succeed. She says it’s been fun learning and making friends with people from all over the world.

Canada, though, hasn’t been everything she hoped it would be. Shengyun thought she had a good idea of what to expect. She had done her research and was relying on her friend’s experience of twenty years in Toronto. However, just as China is very different from Canada, Toronto is very different from Saskatoon.

Shengyun expected Canada to be very beautiful. She looked forward to seeing little pollution, many forests, plenty of water, and a clean environment, and in this regard, she is not disappointed. Saskatchewan has more than its fair share of beautiful and natural spaces. Shengyun was also familiar with Canadians’ reputation for being friendly and welcoming and in this as well, people in Saskatoon have surpassed her expectations. Where she has been disappointed is in the high cost of living and the less-than-perfect public transit system.

Shengyun and her husband are frustrated by how difficult it is to earn a good living. When earnings are balanced against the high cost of rent or home ownership, utilities, and the deductions that are taken from every paycheque, very little is left over.  Shengyun and her husband have enough because they both work, but even so, it’s very hard. She feels bad for all the people she sees who don’t seem to have enough money. It makes life difficult when working hard doesn’t guarantee enough money.

In spite of these challenges, Shengyun says that she is very happy to be here in Saskatoon. She really likes Canada. She also loves the Global Gathering Place and appreciates everything that she has gained from attending GGP’s programming. A few programs that stick out as being especially helpful are English classes, Coffee and Conversation, Driving Theory, and Swimming Without Fear. After attending the Driving Theory class, for example, she was able to pass her written driving test on the very first try. She was nervous to attend the swimming class because in her whole life, she had never even been to a pool or lake. She was brave though. She worked hard and she learned to swim!

Shengyun’s combined work, school, and family responsibilities mean that her days are very full. She may not have enough time to do all the things she’d like, but remains grateful for all the opportunities she is able to take advantage of at GGP. She said that everyone at GGP has been very helpful and that it means a lot to have somewhere to go for advice and help for all her problems and questions.

As for her future, Shengyun says that she and her family are really not sure what it holds for them. There are so many possibilities and they have so many dreams. Before they can pursue these dreams, though, she says that they’re going to have to continue working hard to increase their savings. It all takes time.

It is true that the world is full of possibility and potential. Newcomers in particular need to be flexible and patient and responsive to change as they build new lives in Canada. The most successful are able to embrace, accept, and recognize the benefits that change can bring. Shengyun and her family are poised for a successful future in Canada. Best of luck and may all their dreams come true!

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