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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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.”