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!

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.

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