Newcomer stories are a way of sharing immigration and integration experiences with others.

Some of the stories have been written by people who are brand new Canadians, while other stories have been written by people who immigrated to Canada many years ago.

If you have a story that you would like to share with others, contact us at 

Your stories can be directed toward

  • new immigrants settling into life in Durham
  • people thinking about immigrating to Canada
  • portal visitors interested in learning more about the experiences of their neighbours.
Hina's Story
Immigrants tend to be very resilient people. By the very fact that they have left an established life in one country to embark on a journey to a new country, often with a new language, sets them apart from others. They are risk-takers and truly exemplify lifelong learning as they settle, adapt and learn about living and working in a new community. Hina is one of those immigrants. She arrived in Canada knowing very little about her adopted country with little English and few resources to support her when she arrived. The first few years were difficult (culture shock, isolation and loneliness) but a move to Durham proved to be a turning point for her and her children. A single mother of three, Hina had to draw on her own resilience and strength to build a new life. Five years ago, Hina started English-language classes and in less than five years, she went from no English to taking credit courses through Continuing Education to get her diploma. It wasn't easy and at one point she considered going back to her home country but she was impressed with the continual kindness and patience of everyday people across Durham. People on buses, in banks, in her community were always willing to help with directions or just say "hello". A local volunteer with the Interchurch Immigrant Support Group (IISG) sat with her for seven hours when her daughter was ill. Asked why she decided to stay, Hina says, "The generosity and the kindness of the people in Durham made me stay." Hina drew on the resources and help offered by the staff at Continuing Education, the Settlement Workers in Schools worker in her children's school, as well as IISG and the Welcome Centre. Her advice to newcomers. and newcomer women especially, is to learn English. In her experience, it is so important to be independent of interpreters and to engage with the broader community, for yourself and for your children. "You won't learn about your new home without learning English. It's very important," she says. A major milestone for the family was recently reached, they became Canadian Citizens. "I didn't want to just be an immigrant; I wanted to be a Canadian. You have a responsibility to be part of this country. This is our home."
May's Story
May Toma is a familiar face to many newcomers in Durham. She is a settlement worker in the Settlement Workers in Schools (SWIS) program in Durham. She is an invaluable resource to newcomer families as well as the private sponsoring groups who are sponsoring refugees to come to Durham. May fled from Iraq to Turkey in 1996 as a refugee. She then immigrated to Canada in 2001 with her husband. For them, Canada was a safe place. "We could see our future here. Canada seemed to be a place where we could plan for our future. We were very ambitious; it was new place, a new country, a new start so it was also very exciting". Before they came, they heard that there were opportunities in Canada, freedom, respect for each person as a human being, a place you can be yourself. There was only one person she knew who had lived and worked in Canada and he told her that it was also going to be tough moving to Canada but May laughs, "I didn't believe him, I didn't want to believe him". Arriving in Canada, the hardest part was not knowing what to do or where to go to find out what to do; the systems for everything were so different. May had a cousin who arrived a year before. He was still new to Canada as well though and the information he had learned was very particular to his life and his career. Her advice to newcomers is to get information from the agencies and organizations that are there to help you. People's individual experiences vary and what applies to your friend might not apply to you so get your information from a trusted source as that will help you to reach your goals faster. Within 10 days of arriving, May started working at Tim Hortons, the pace was intense, even with excellent English, the accents and slang and the drive through speakers made it very challenging but "there was always somebody there to help, always, and I'm grateful for that". "What helped me was making connections with people. I got my first job at Tim Hortons because I sat down with the manager and told him what I had done back home and he said, Ok, I'm going to give you a chance" The family moved to Pickering in 2006. They had friends in Pickering and every time they came to visit, May found she didn't want to leave. The trees, the quietness, programs for children you don't have to line up for all night, people were kind, schools were good, and "we just really liked it here". May started teaching at a college and many of her students were newcomers and she found that she was being asked questions all the time about life in Canada. She 27 enjoyed helping in that way and so started to volunteer at Community Development Council Durham in the Host program. In 2010, May was hired by SWIS. May's final advice to newcomers is to learn English. It's not just for work, it's for building relationships. If you want to belong and make this place home then you need to speak the language and get to know all the many different people in your community.
Nadia's Story
It's been one year since Nadia arrived in Canada with her family. Their arrival coincided with the start of her daughter's academic year at the University of Toronto. The family originally immigrated to Canada in 2012 but went back home to allow their youngest daughter to finish her last two years of high school and for both Nadia and her husband to wrap up their work and business. Permanently settled in Canada now, the family is looking forward to buying their first home here and finding permanent jobs in their fields. The family knew before they came to Canada that they needed to get their credentials assessed and anticipated that it would take time to find jobs in their fields. They received additional information on equivalency at the airport when they arrived and found the process of having their credentials recognized straightforward. Both Nadia and her husband hold Master's degrees that have been recognized in Canada. Nadia visited the Welcome Centre within the first week of arriving last year. She knew she needed to Canadianize her resume and knew the Welcome Centre staff would guide her step by step. In addition to resume help, she had a language assessment and signed up for both the Enhanced Language Training (ELT) and the Mentorship Partnership programs. Nadia has an MD and spent many years teaching medical students anatomy at the university level. She is interested in similar work in Canada. After two months of enhanced language training she began an internship at Seneca College where she is working in the anatomy department. Through the Mentorship Partnership program, Nadia has applied to places she wouldn't even have known about if it wasn't for the assistance and guidance of her mentor. Job searching is very different in Canada from back home and she has found the assistance and help of programs at the Welcome Centre invaluable. One of the most difficult parts of moving to Canada was driving here, after 25 years driving on the left side of the road; it was a huge shift driving on the right. To improve her confidence, Nadia took lessons and every time Nadia was in a car as a passenger, she did "imaginary driving, I'd be looking out the window and pretending I was driving." Her advice to other newcomers? "Get your driver's license as soon as you can because there are many places that aren't easily accessible by public transport." Her additional advice for newcomers, "Most people make the mistake of avoiding Welcome Centres, I don't know why. Go to the Welcome Centre, it's a one-window operation, everything's done there, and they are such friendly people!"
Stan's Story
Stan Squires is known to many in Clarington as one of the leaders of the Orono and Community Syrian Refugee Sponsorship Group. An immigrant himself, Stan shares some of his story with us. I came to Canada after a university friend visited Expo 1967 and told me that Canada was an amazing country. I arrived from England the day before Canada Day in 1969 to a small town in New Brunswick. Canada Day was spent driving to summer school at University of New Brunswick, Fredericton. Although I faced nothing like the challenges faced by many new Canadians with language and cultural differences, I faced great resentment living in Cape Breton as the steel plant had been suddenly closed on Black Friday 1968 by a British company called Hawker Siddely. It left the whole economy and many family lives in ruins. While not a target, I also observed racism in many areas, against First Nations and Black people. I lived in Cape Breton at the time of the Donald Marshall (wrongful) conviction for Sandy Seale's murder, and it split the community with so much bitterness. Trying to settle in a new community takes effort. I tried to work hard and get involved in the community. I volunteered and tried to demonstrate that I really cared about those in need and wanted to make a difference. My wife and I moved to Durham from Toronto in 2004 as my wife's new job was in Clarington. Durham is one of Ontario's best kept secrets. It has beaches, lakefront, forest land, urban and rural communities. But the greatest asset of Durham is the wonderful compassionate people living here. Despite Durham's rapid growth, the amazing, kind and compassionate people of Orono and Clarington that I have met and worked with, particularly with the Syrian sponsorship, reinforce our decision to stay. As with many other Canadians, I wept at the horrors going on in Syria and felt that I had to do something, however small. Once I started, I found that people were so compassionate and caring. We have had such an incredible response from more than 150 donors, volunteers, small businesses, service clubs, schools and churches. As I now hear the horror stories from our sponsored family, it reinforces the decision to try to make a difference. My advice for newcomers arriving in Durham? Get involved. Join. Make a difference. Someone somewhere needs your help. Whether it is a church, service club or other community group, everyone has something to offer and there are so many opportunities to help others less fortunate than yourself.

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