Home away from home

Im­mi­grants find new home around the bay


Im­mi­grants find New­found­land and Labrador a good place to live, and New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans are friendly peo­ple. But, when it comes to be­ing open and wel­com­ing to new­com­ers to our prov­ince, they also agree there is room for im­prove­ment, ac­cord­ing to two im­mi­grants who took part in a panel dis­cus­sion in Car­bon­ear last week.

Noor Yousif, a car­diac tech­ni­cian orig­i­nally from Iraq, moved to Car­bon­ear last year af­ter liv­ing in On­tario. Jean Madi, orig­i­nally from Lebanon, has lived in the area for 15 years. The busi­ness­man op­er­ates Big Bite Pizza in Bay Roberts.

“ This is a good place to live, but it needs to be more open­ing to new­com­ers,” Madi sug­gested. Yousif agreed. The panel dis­cus­sion, en­ti­tled “ Wel­com­ing di­ver­sity - what will it take?” took place Feb. 22 at the Car­bon­ear cam­pus of the Col­lege of the North At­lantic. It was part of the launch of a new New­comer Por­tal Web­site (im­mi­gra­tion@aroundthe­bay.ca).

The new site is a joint pro­ject of MRON (Mariner Re­source Op­por­tu­ni­ties Net­work) and the Town of Car­bon­ear. The site was de­signed to help new­com­ers find in­for­ma­tion on a va­ri­ety of ser­vices and re­sources avail­able to them in their newly adopted com­mu­nity. It was also de­signed to help mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions and busi­nesses at­tract and re­tain new­com­ers to their com­mu­ni­ties.

Kerri Ab­bott, pro­ject co-or­di­na­tor with M-RON, said in designing the site they were ad­vised to keep it sim­ple, straight­for­ward and user-friendly.

Ab­bott noted new­com­ers to the area were hav­ing dif­fi­cul­ties find­ing ev­ery­thing from a physi­cian or a school to a seam­stress or mu­sic lessons. The site cov­ers a va­ri­ety of is­sues in­clud­ing liv­ing here, mov­ing here, work­ing here, cop­ing with stress, peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties, med­i­cal ser­vices and shop­ping, child care, churches and other places of wor­ship and some­times hard to find re­cre­ation and so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties.

Gary Mun­den, chair­man of the M-RON zonal board, said the site was started in Car­bon­ear, but they hope it spreads out to in­clude the en­tire Bac­calieu Trail re­gion.

Wel­com­ing the new web­site, Noor Yousif said, “this web­site is a very good idea.”

She said look­ing things up in the phone book was not a prob­lem for her be­cause she speaks English well, “ but oth­ers can’t.”

De­spite her com­mand of the lan­guage, she said when she ar­rived here, “it was very dif­fi­cult,” be­ing un­able to find things in her new com­mu­nity be­came so frus­trat­ing for Yousif, she ended up go­ing back to On­tario for awhile be­fore re­turn­ing to Car­bon­ear.

“ This is a very good web­site for peo­ple who are new to this area,” she said.

While he strug­gled with English af­ter first ar­riv­ing here, Jean Madi said he learned to speak the lan­guage be­cause, “I wanted to be part of the com­mu­nity. I wanted to be suc­cess­ful.

“Some peo­ple may think we’re here only for the money; we’re not. As fel­low hu­man be­ings you need to be more open to us and give us more credit if we make mis­takes.”

Madi was ap­plauded when he said, “New­found­lan­ders are good, wel­com­ing and funny, but we are too.” And for those New­found­lan­ders who may feel they are not friendly enough to new­com­ers, Madi joked, “a lot of us are not friendly ei­ther.”

A third panel mem­ber, Deb­bie Shep­pard, re­cruits physi­cians from around the world for East­ern Health.

Ex­cited about the web­site launch, Shep­pard sug­gested, “ed­u­ca­tion is the key and this por­tal is go­ing to be a good re­cruit­ment tool. We need some sort of men­tor­ship in our com­mu­ni­ties — they (new­com­ers) need to be wel­comed.”

Any­time we are not as wel­com­ing as we could be, Shep­pard felt, “it’s not be­cause we’re not friendly, but some­times we are afraid.”

She said we need new­com­ers; we can learn more from them than we could imag­ine.

When physi­cians ar­rive here from for­eign coun­tries, Shep­pard noted, “the wife and chil­dren are also a concern.”

She said in re­cruit­ing and re­tain­ing a physi­cian, it’s very im­por­tant that his/her fam­ily be happy here be­cause a happy fam­ily means a happy physi­cian.

Point­ing out a lot of new im­mi­grants feel lost, Noor Yousif said, “it’s very im­por­tant to help them fit in. We need to ed­u­cate peo­ple on mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism, that’s very im­por­tant. It’s okay to be friends.”

Find­ing one­self in a new land can be “lonely and de­press­ing,” she said. “I’m sorry to say it, but New­found­land and Labrador is be­com­ing like a step­ping stone, for those who only stay for a while and then they are gone.”

Many of the ad­van­tages to liv­ing in com­mu­ni­ties like Car­bon­ear were rec­og­nized, like large open spaces, clean air, and prox­im­ity to St. John’s, which gives it the ben­e­fits of a small com­mu­nity with ac­cess to the ser­vices of an ur­ban cen­tre.

One ad­van­tage that struck Yousif was safe liv­ing con­di­tions.

She couldn’t get over the fact some peo­ple in ru­ral New­found­land still don’t lock their doors at night and don’t have alarm sys­tems in their homes. “In On­tario there isn’t a home that doesn’t have an alarm sys­tem,” she sug­gested.

“It’s safe here; it’s a good place to raise a fam­ily. I’d like to make it home. It’s a safe com­mu­nity – that’s very im­por­tant. I think it’s good here. I’m happy. It’s close to the univer­sity, so I can go back to school.”

Jean Madi agreed. “I love the area. I reached out, got in­volved in the com­mu­nity and am now part of the fam­ily. I’m a Le­banese New­found­lan­der. If you want to live here you have to make it your home.”

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