My Journey as a Newcomer to Canada

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On Canada Day, I celebrate freedom—peace. But adjusting to this new life was overwhelming. I’ll never forget the day my family and I landed as immigrants in Canada.

It was Christmas 2005 when my husband, three children and I got off a plane in Winnipeg. We left Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia, in search of a better life. The weather here was cold. We had some clothes, small household items and $100 to live on.  We couldn’t speak any English. We didn’t know anyone.  

Home was a welcome centre until we could get established and I often wondered if I did the right thing—uprooting the family. Nothing was easy and everything was a mystery.  

Before long, I decided to take the kids to McDonalds—something familiar to them. I took my dictionary to help us find our way. “Excuse me, where McDonald’s is?” I asked one gentleman. I was so proud I had put a sentence together. The man answered, but it made no sense to me. The book didn’t translate answers.

Our first year in Canada was very hard. We didn’t know the country, its rules or ways of life. We couldn’t find employment due to the language barrier. With no English skills my kids were misunderstood in school. People stared. Grades slipped. It wasn’t good.

One day my kids were invited to play at The Salvation Army’s Barbara Mitchell Family Resource Centre—a place with programs and services specifically geared toward the immigrant population. Through one-on-one support, field trips, games and informal discussions, they felt accepted, their pride was restored, their English improved and they met friends.  

“Mom, come and see The Salvation Army centre” they said one day. Army? Soldiers? At first I was afraid. But I wanted to be part of it because my kids were there. So I went to the centre’s English café.

Little by little my life changed. Teachers helped with my English. I wasn’t judged when I asked the same question several times. The classes focused on me and my needs. I explored, learned and made friends.  IMG_1994_250px

I started to volunteer at the centre—anything from child care to cooking. Then a position came open for a coordinator in the English café.  I was a teacher back home so it would be a good fit. I got the job and am so happy to see the program growing. I also work as the Volunteer and Hospitality Coordinator at the Centre and the Hospitality Coordinator at the Living Hope Church.

I’m grateful for the values Canada stands for—freedom, peace, and love of diversity. And any chance I get I shout, “Go, Canada, Go!”