I always enjoy my speaking engagements and meeting the interesting and diverse people who attend the events. My recent engagement was an extra special experience. I’ve spoken at other conferences sponsored by CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) and this time an extended opportunity allowed me, in between my keynote and seminars, to hear the remarkable stories of the attendees. The experience touched me so deeply that I am motivated – compelled – to share on my blog.
The participants at this conference were New Canadians who are teaching Newer Canadians English and to help with their transition to this country. They were from all parts of the world – Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Eastern Europe, Asia. Many left their relatives and homeland to flee war and oppression. They all love their countries and miss their families greatly. But they took the biggest leap of their lives in search of safety and peace. What better country to choose than Canada? Many were professionals who now do two or three jobs a day to survive. Yet they are grateful – they do not complain. They have a strong belief in freedom and the future, and trust that better times are on the horizon as they build safer and more opportune lives for their children. Their reasons for immigrating and their journey from homeland to the new land, is both heart wrenching and uplifting. They simply tell their story – no dramatics, no pity, no bitterness – simple fact. They do not see themselves as heroic – simply mothers and fathers protecting their children. Mostly the women in the audience were the ones to approach me with their stories. I knew from my Mother, who was a New Canadian 50 years ago, the challenges she and my father faced and overcame to bring their three children to freedom. Sometimes I take for granted their bravery and hardship. Listening to these stories restored my gratitude for my parents, my country, my blessings.
I was the motivational speaker in the front of the room at the conference but the people in the audience held the truly remarkable stories of opportunity, resilience, and success. These stories need to be written, recorded, and shared as a reminder to all of how fortunate we are even during times of uncertainty. We have the fortitude within us to survive against all odds.
The groups which helped with the organization and participated in the conference, and for the valuable work that they do: Chatham-Kent Adult Language and Learning; College Boreal; Greater Essex County District School Board LARC program; LINC (Language Instruction for New Canadians); Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County; New Canadians’ Centre for excellence; South Essex Community Council; Windsor Women Working with Immigrant Women; Women’s Enterprise Skills Training; YMCA of Windsor and Essex County.