Natalia is originally from Russia. She and her family came to Saskatoon under the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program. Her husband, a cook at a nursing home, came first. Two and a half years after his arrival, Natalia and their children were able to join him. She spoke feelingly of that time of separation from her husband—it was a long time to be apart. Although they talked on Skype every day, it was hard and she began losing hope that she would ever make it to Canada. She had her hands full with two pre-school aged children, and she just wanted him there.

The day did eventually arrive. It was her first time on a plane, and she described how she and her two small children had to navigate their way onto three different planes in order to complete their journey. In spite of this, it was exciting and interesting and there was such joy and relief when she finally debarked in Saskatoon. Her husband was waiting there at the airport for her with a huge bouquet of roses.

She says that the hardest part of living here has been her lack of English. Striking up a conversation with people is difficult. When you first meet someone, or even when you know someone but they’re not a close friend, getting past “hi,” “hi” is the really hard part. She said that this is where Global Gathering Place has really helped out. She especially loves Coffee and Conversation for this reason—it’s an opportunity to not only meet many new people, but also to talk to them and form friendships. She explained that she had studied English before, back in Russia, but it was as if her ears weren’t open and it feels like she didn’t learn anything. She attends every program that she can at GGP, and is really learning now. Her ears are open.

Natalia likes how friendly people are in Saskatoon. Even with so many immigrants arriving every day, Saskatonians continue to be welcoming. She told a story about getting lost downtown in her first weeks here. She was driving at the time and got to her destination without any problem. However, when it came time to leave, she couldn’t remember which way to go. She drove around and around but nothing seemed familiar. Finally, she stopped at a gas station and asked for help. The employee there was understanding and helpful and quickly got her back on the right route. What a relief!

Natalia dreams of becoming a professional photographer. She currently has a small studio in her apartment and she’s looked into the possibility of enrolling in a full-time photography course. The cost, however, is prohibitive at $6,000 for a six-month course! Because it’s so much money, she thinks that she will try to learn on her own and practice with the people, places, and things she sees around her. That kind of money might be better spent on so many things, like maybe as part of a down payment on a house. Currently, they are four sharing a two bedroom apartment. Natalia’s mother plans on visiting in the summer and it would be so nice if they had something more comfortable than their living room couch to offer her.  

In the meantime, they make do just fine. Their apartment is in a nice location in the city and their windows look out onto trees. Natalia’s hobby is bird watching and she loves photographing the birds she sees there. She has hung bird feeders from the branches to attract as many kinds as possible. Their cheerful songs and happy energy revitalize her.  

Life is good. Natalia always wanted to be here in Canada and can’t wait to explore every province. So far, she’s been to Jasper in Alberta, all over Saskatchewan, and to Toronto to visit her sister. Her plate is full with activities, hobbies, a job, and family to keep her busy and she says that she loves everything here. She loves studying English, she loves that it’s a small city, and she feels at home, as if she’s lived here all her life.

Welcome to Canada, Natalia, we wish you all the best!


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!