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!

Mohammad

Mohammad is someone with a clear idea of who he is, where he’s been, what he still wants to achieve, and most importantly, what matters most in life. At GGP, we work with people often still in the process of figuring these things out. It is important to recognize that there are mentors, leaders, and teachers like Mohammad with an incredible depth of wisdom and knowledge to share.  

When Mohammad came to Saskatoon five months ago, it was not his first visit to Canada. He first came here in 1974 as a student—studying English in Montreal, of all places. He worked on a Master’s degree in Nuclear Physics at the University of Calgary before transferring to the University of Saskatchewan to complete a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. During this time, he married and celebrated the birth of his first son.

Mohammad returned to his home country of Iran in 1979, where he lived and worked for the next thirty-three years. He held several managerial and board positions and also started his own successful trade company. He said that although he had a good life in Iran, he hopes to build a better life here, especially for his children.

Mohammad said he loves Canada and he loves Saskatoon. He appreciates everything that he has gained from participating in GGP’s programs. He has attended many programs and classes: Coffee and Conversation; Family, Fun, and Fit; Drop-In Information sessions; Driving Theory; Computer classes; First Aid & CPR; and, of course, English classes.   Eventually, he would like to start a business here, but first, he wants to learn everything he can about Canadian culture and the way things are done here. Global Gathering Place has given him many opportunities to develop this understanding.

“Canadian people,” he said, “are good.” He said they are hospitable and kind and can enjoy life in a country with very little racism. His experience is that success here depends on the individual—on the time, work, and effort he or she is willing to invest. He said that there are equal opportunities and plenty of resources, and it’s up to you to decide what you want to do.

Mohammad wants to work. He’s been job hunting for a few months now, and when he started out, he lacked the skills, knowledge, and confidence in his English ability that he needed to land a suitable position. The programs he’s attended have helped enormously, and finally, last week, he was given his chance. He was selected for a position and will soon be travelling to Calgary to complete training. It’s very important to him that he not sit at home while life passes by. He wants to be an active and contributing member of society.  “It’s not about the money,” he explained, “I want to be useful to society. I want to help, not to get help.”

He wishes, though, that this process were easier and expresses regret at how many high-level specialists are forced into taking entry-level and survival jobs. It’s disappointing to see physicians, scientists, and engineers working a checkout lane.  If only Canadians were able to recognize how much profit there is to be gained from tapping into skills that newcomers bring.   “Canada must use us. We have so much experience and so much to offer.”

In the meantime, Mohammad looks forward to beginning his new job and waits for the day that his family is reunited. His wife returned to Tehran after only two and a half months in Saskatoon. She went back to be with their daughter while she completes her thesis. They’re both due back in Canada in December and the months until then can’t slip by quickly enough. In thirty-eight years of marriage, this is the first time and the longest time that Mohammad’s been alone.

Good luck, Mohammad. Canada is fortunate to have you.

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