Refugees and Windsor still working to fit together

CiCi Deng
By CiCi Deng May 1, 2017 22:16

Refugees and Windsor still working to fit together

It’s the little things that make the difference: sleeping, eating, shopping like any other human being. Free from terror.

But while the arrival of so many Syrian refugees to Windsor ended their suffering, it also marked the beginning of new struggles both for them and for their new community.

Nawar Qadas and Reem Kodmany are a Syrian couple. They and their two children have been in Windsor since March last year.

“When the terror came, you lose your mind, just escape, you don’t know where,” said Kodmany when recalling her life in Syria. “Everybody in streets just running, run, run, run, we don’t know where.

“Sometimes we have water, sometimes we don’t have water. A lot of times we don’t have electricity, they studied by kindle all the time,” said Kodmany. “We don’t have anything. We don’t have heat, never. We sleep in the cold night without electric or light.”

Now, in Canada they’re starting over, learning the language, the customs and even what Halloween is.

“There is no Syrian festival,” said Qadas. “My children like Halloween too much here. They bought dresses for Halloween and basket and we bought some chocolate for children.”

As newcomers, they have needed a lot help to fit into this new community. And they’re not the only ones.

Since 2001, the Multicultural Council in Windsor has operated the Windsor Resettlement Assistance Program, assisting more than 5,000 refugees. But, last year alone, it received 1,037 government-assisted refugees, more than seven times the usual number.

Colin Grimmond, the pre-employment coordinator at Multicultural Council, has helped about 500 refugees. He said learning a new language is often a problem for refugees.

“Windsor is a competitive labour market, so you have to have skills in order to acquire long-lasting employment, so having language is important,” said Grimmond.

The federal government provides free language classes, which Kodmany has enrolled in.

She can communicate in English now, though she didn’t have any experience learning English before.

“To be honest with you, I tried to study English. I study every day in my school,” said Kodmany. “I have just about ten months (of studying) English in school.”

But getting so many new people settled has required presented other challenges. It has required about 70 organizations working together.

Mary Ellen Bernard, the manager of Social Policy and Planning at City of Windsor said finding suitable house for refugees has also been difficult. Some refugee families come with eight ten children, but Canadian houses are not big enough.

Meanwhile, the city created a health clinic free for newcomers to make sure refugees get a good introduction to the local health system.

The federal government pays the refugees’ costs for their first year in Canada.

Aside from the help from the government and non-profits, many Windsor groups and residents have stepped up too.

“When I came here, my neighbor came asked us if we need anything,” said Qadas. “He bring my children toys, asked us (about ourselves), watched my house, asked if someone hurt us.”

“It is a way of bringing in peace into the world, and it’s a very noble thing that Canada does,” said Marcela Diaz, settlement and integration manager at City of Windsor.

CiCi Deng
By CiCi Deng May 1, 2017 22:16

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