Originally from Iraq, Mustafa and his family fled to Syria where they lived for five years before coming to Canada as Government Assisted Refugees in 2011. The move has been a good one for them; Mustafa speaks glowingly of Canada, referring to the safety he has found and the fact that all people enjoy the same human rights as a gift.

In Syria, he says, he always felt different. The systems and processes there ensured that he never forgot that difference. There was no option to become a citizen, and every three months he had to renew his visa, a costly requirement. The United Nations helped his family a lot, coordinating visa renewals and the application to move to Canada. It was a difficult and stressful period in all their lives. He spoke of having too much free time and nothing to fill his days even though he was working there. In Canada, by contrast, he’s busy. Always busy.

He’s tried his hand working several jobs here, sometimes simultaneously (sleep is for the weak), attends English classes at SIAST, is launching his own cleaning business, and still finds time to participate in programs at Global Gathering Place. Family, Fun, and Fit, Information Sessions, Driving Theory, Swimming Classes, he shows an enormous amount of initiative in learning as much as he possibly can as quickly as he can about his new country.

Before coming to Canada, he hoped that life would be easier. He hoped to be able to complete his education and to build a future for himself that didn’t require working hard manual labour jobs. There is the possibility for all of that here, but it is not an easy road. Education is so very expensive in Canada, and before he can consider post-secondary education, he needs first to obtain his GED. In order to be able to afford school, he needs to earn more money. In order to earn more money, he needs a better job. In order to get a better job, he needs more education. It’s a vicious circle, but with perseverance and tenacity, all is possible and Mustafa is determined. As a mark of this determination, Mustafa has actually started up his own company, Qmarion Cleaning. He hopes to build this fledgling venture into a family business that can help and employ his family members as well.

Mustafa is integrating very well and very quickly into life in Canada. He mentioned that one adjustment has been getting used to our system of law. He came from places with widespread corruption, where people could simply pay their way out of difficulties. It was satisfying to find out that Canada has strong laws, and the consequences for breaking the law are clear and applied equally, regardless of a person’s wealth.

The biggest change, he says, has been adjusting to the weather. He experienced his first taste of snow and his first feel of sub-zero temperatures here and summer can’t arrive too soon! Brrr! Even so, he says he loves it here, and looks forward to the day he’ll carry a Canadian passport.


An brings a kind of peaceful energy to activities at the Global Gathering Place.  She is here in Canada visiting her daughter on one of the new Super Visas that were introduced by the Canadian government in 2011. This special type of visa allows the parents or grandparents of Canadian citizens or permanent residents multiple entries over several years without the need to renew their status. This is An’s third visit to Canada.

An considers Saskatoon a second home town and the people she’s met at GGP a second family. She loves how friendly everyone is and is pleased to have been given the opportunity to learn about so many other cultures.  An is a lifelong learner. At home in China, she is a university laboratory demonstrator. Here, she has enjoyed exploring Canada’s universities, comparing and contrasting their teaching methods to what is familiar to her in China. She says that while a person can learn a lot about a place by conducting research on the Internet, it’s when you are able to visit a campus and sit in on a real class that you can begin to see how things really work. In addition to visiting the University of Saskatchewan, An has visited campuses in Edmonton, Calgary, and Regina, and will soon go to Toronto, and Montreal, learning from their strengths.

We know An through her involvement in many of GGP’s programs. She has been attending the Drop-in English classes, Coffee and Conversation, and Family, Fun, and Fit activities. This week, as a special treat and in celebration of Chinese New Year’s, she will be helping out with our CHEF cooking class, teaching newcomers how to prepare traditional Chinese dumplings—a mainstay at New Year’s celebrations in China. She said she looks forward to sharing the joy of New Year’s with people of so many cultures.

The winter months can be a time of sorrow for An as this season causes her to miss her parents and mother-in-law terribly. She spoke with feeling and passion as she described the hours she spent with them caring for them. She took them to parks and appointments and shopping trips, she cooked for them, visited with them, enjoyed their company. It was apparent how very much she misses that closeness. Her parents and mother-in-law each passed away during winter, and this fact has filled these months with difficult memories for her, especially when she’s at home in China. She tries to busy herself during this season with other things, this year travelling to Canada and finding joy in the family she’s found at the Global Gathering Place.

An would like to spend more time in Canada. She would like become a volunteer and work with elders. Working with elders takes a great deal of patience, but the rewards are incredible as elders have so much to teach and love to share. First though, An says she needs to improve her English skills. She has been working hard on this, and those of us who work with her can see real improvements.

We wish An the best of luck and many happy adventures. Happy New Year!


We first met Muhammed in September of 2012. Since that time, his has become a welcome and familiar face at Global Gathering Place. He has been attending ESL classes, the weekend Family, Fun, and Fit program, and Thursday afternoon Coffee & Conversation classes. In addition to this, he has been lending his time and talents—giving back to our organization in many ways. He has become GGP’s unofficial photographer—photographing our late-evening soccer matches, and taking photos at cooking classes and weekend activities. He also delivered a very well-received session on how to choose a cell phone, and has been volunteering his technical expertise by repairing some very lucky clients’ laptops.

Muhammed’s is a bit of a unique situation. Although he was born in Canada and is a Canadian citizen, he grew up in Egypt, and is therefore very much a newcomer here. Even so, he said what a beautiful moment it was for him when, at Canadian customs, the customs agent said to him “Welcome back!” Muhammed hadn’t been in Canada since he was two years old; it was a lovely and heartwarming feeling.

Muhammed expressed gratitude for all the help he has received from Global Gathering Place. He says that his English is improving as a result of attending ESL classes and various social activities; he has made connections with many really good people. Before he came to Canada, he imagined it to be a very beautiful country filled with kind and helpful people. He said that while this has been the case, he never expected that finding employment would be so difficult.

Muhammed has a degree in Computer Engineering and had hoped finding a job in his field would be quick and easy. He applied to companies throughout Canada but soon found that employers are looking for Canadian certification and Canadian experience. For this reason, Muhammed decided to return to university, but the strict language requirements and the fact that the university has not given equal recognition to his Egyptian credentials have so far shut him out. Like so many newcomers, he finds himself in a catch-22, increasingly frustrated.

The bitter cold, something that one might expect to be a difficult adjustment for those coming from a hot country, has not slowed Muhammed down. Even when the wind-chill drops the temperature to -48°C, Muhammed manages to complete his errands with only the bus and his own legs for transportation. He dresses for the weather and keeps up a brisk pace while walking. The winter has provided an opportunity to try out winter sports. He chuckled when he remembered his first attempt at skating. He says that when he’s a famous hockey player he’ll look back on that first time—falling down and breaking the skating frame—and laugh.

Muhammed stays in close contact with his family in Egypt. Cellphones and internet and the wonder of Skype help to maintain strong connections. At Eid, Muhammed enlisted help from his Mom to prepare fata—a traditional Egyptian meal of lamb, bread, and rice. Over several hours on Skype, he prepared this special dish alongside his Mom back in Egypt.

Egypt and the protests there have been filling our news outlets with terrifying images of angry mobs and doom and gloom prophesies. Muhammed isn’t happy with the political situation in Egypt right now, but he says that it is not quite as dangerous there as our media would have us believe. He said that it’s life as usual; people are still going to work, going to school, going shopping, celebrating. In other words, he isn’t worried for the safety of his family back in Egypt. At the same time, Muhammed very much appreciates Canada. Here, he says, people are free to say hello to anyone and everyone and to take photos. He said that in Egypt, he would risk arrest for taking photos so openly on the street. He was also very pleased to discover how much Canadians know, understand, and respect his religion. He’s been invited out for supper to Canadians’ homes on a few occasions, and he’s always received a call first asking him for more details about what he could and could not eat. He said this made him feel respected, and he was very pleasantly surprised.

Muhammed plans to stay in Canada, but he really doesn’t know what his future will hold. He desperately wants to begin working, but until that happens, he’s simply not sure. He dreams of owning a software company and of having his become a household name. Meet the next Mark Zuckerberg!