I have been in Canada for 5 years through a private sponsorship by a church. My wife has been here for 4 years. I first met my wife in a refugee camp in Sudan. Now we have 2 children, 3 years old and almost one year old.
When we first came, we were staying with my brother and sister-in-law who had 5 children from 3 to 13 years of age in a 2-bedroom apartment. They arrived in Edmonton a year before us. The living conditions were very crowded; we slept on the couch and floor in the living room, and not long after my wife arrived, our first baby was born.
We contributed to the household by helping with chores. We had $100 USD with us, which was a gift from a friend before coming to Canada. This was all the money we had and that was not even enough to buy medication for our child who often got sick. My brother’s family was very busy making ends meet and taking care of the children. They could not help us to access any services such as health care and social insurance, English assessments, etc. because the government offices were closed on weekends when they were off work.
We felt we were trapped because I could not look for a job. I did know some English, but my wife could only understand a bit. We were pretty much on our own even though we stayed in the same apartment. The atmosphere was not great at all when everyone was stressed. My wife always cried because of the suffering.
A neighbour finally referred me to a facilitator of an Eritrean/Ethiopian Parent-Child Program, who referred me to get support for basic settlement documents such as healthcare, resident card, bank account, social insurance number, etc. Owing to the sponsorship, we could not apply for social assistance. The support workers also connected me to community ESL classes, ASSIST Community Services Centre and Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers for working up a resume and sharpening the interview skills. After 8 months of job search, I finally landed a position in a meat factory and we cried out for joy. We definitely needed to move out of my brother’s apartment as the relationship was falling apart.
With the help of the facilitators contacts, we got help to rent a cheaper than market price apartment. Along with the kind landlord and the Emergency Funds from Multicultural Family Resource Society by private donations, we could pay for the first couple months of rent, and we were also connected to the Food Bank.
We had no furniture but the facilitator connected us to others who found some kind people who donated airbeds for our children. We were also very lucky because our neighbour moved out to Fort McMurray and donated many of his furniture to us. We also got help to apply for the Child Tax Benefit. Meanwhile my wife and kid had been attending the parent/child program and she learned practical things shared by others and felt supported emotionally. My wife and children also participated in ESL classes for women with young children. The program activities and toys had made our children very happy. They finally had a chance to positively interact with others. Things were getting much better than we were hoping for.
My older child was then enrolled in early learning program for low income families. I eventually got the driver’s license and we bought an used minivan.
We also got help to get insurance. I was also attending the LINC program in the evening.
I believe in karma which comes around. Even though our situation was not great in the refugee camp, I took people in and provided food, and hence the good things happened to us in Canada. We are confident the past is past and we will have a brighter future.