My name is Fatma and I am a single mom from Syria with a son. I arrived to Canada in February 2016 from a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey to begin building my new life from zero. I still remember the feelings of my first moment of my arrival to Canada. It was snowing and -20 degrees. At first I felt depressed and lonely.
I was a lucky to get support from COSTI Immigrant Services, they have been with me through thick and thin. A social worker at COSTI introduced us to a Canadian couple who was looking for a small family to live in a little apartment in their home and to act as our sponsors, along with a few of their neighbours in the Dupont-Bathurst area of Toronto. My son and I lived in the home of our main sponsors for two years. The neighbourhood was very friendly, so even people outside the main sponsor group helped me. They helped me with everything: financial matters, banking, my son’s schooling, my own ESL classes, my son’s enrolment in hockey and other sports, job hunting, finding my own apartment, practicing English. They also took me to interesting events and places to help me understand Canadian culture.
The biggest challenges for me were learning English and finding a job. Before coming to Canada, I only knew a few English words. I have studied extremely hard to improve my English. I began ESL classes at Level 1 and I am still attending classes, but have moved up several levels. Finding a job without fluent English is very difficult, so I continue to work to improve my speaking, reading and writing.
In January 2021 I started volunteering with Together Project and it has been my pleasure to help other newcomers settle in Canada. I was matched with an Iraqi family consisting of a single mom with two disabled children who needed support. I decided to be their guide to overcoming the difficulties they might encounter. I began to help with whatever they needed, such as translating documents, shopping, transportation, school registration, banking, how to pay bills, use cell phones, and more. I feel happy when I see the children’s smiles, and the comfort which appears on the mother’s face .
Now, as I am a Canadian citizen, I have promised myself I will help any refugee who chooses Canada as home to overcome the obstacles they may encounter and be their guide in their first steps.