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.