O Canada! Our Noble and Caring Land
By Ziad Al-Husseini
I am relatively new to Canada. I arrived in Regina in September 2012. I enrolled in the Enhanced Language Training Program (ELT) offered by Regina Open Door Society which helps newcomers to familiarize themselves with the Canadian job market requirements and workplace culture. As a component of this program, participants join Canadian organizations for a few weeks to gain Canadian experience and build local references. I chose to have my work placement in Regina Open Door Society. The work placement gave me the opportunity to understand the wide range of support services offered by the agency to newcomers and their families and to anchor my appreciative feelings towards Canada, especially when I visited Patrick, one of RODS clients, at his home with my colleague Rehab Abdelaziz, the caseworker who looks after his resettlement in Regina.
Patrick is a young paraplegic refugee from Southern Kivu in Congo. Southern Kivu along with Northern Kivu has been a battlefield for ongoing conflicts. Patrick has three brothers and two sisters. When in grade 8, Patrick was injured by a gunshot in his back which rendered him paraplegic. He sought shelter in Rwanda, a neighboring country, where he continued his secondary education. Upon his high school completion in 2009, he returned to Congo to rejoin his family, however, the country witnessed an unprecedented level of violence which forced him to flee to Uganda in 2010. Patrick was referred to Canadian authorities by the United Nations for resettlement in Canada.
I asked Patrick about his feelings and concerns before leaving to Canada, and he answered: “Everybody is supposed to have that fear, because going to a place where you don’t know anybody is hard.” Patrick compared his fears to those he had when he was in Uganda; he explained that he was unable to secure his basic needs, especially with his physical condition, however, he read some books on Canada and became aware that the country is very developed and his life could be better than in Uganda. He emphasized: “This made me stronger.”
Patrick arrived in Regina in March 2013. He was escorted by a doctor from Uganda to Regina. Upon his arrival at the airport in Regina, Patrick was surprised to find two RODS employees waiting for him. Because he was in a wheelchair, the RODS team couldn’t take Patrick to the designated reception house, as it didn’t have wheelchair access. The team promptly booked him a motel room for two weeks until the agency was able to find a wheelchair-friendly apartment. Before Patrick was able to move in, the agency connected the apartment to power, energy, telephone and internet services. He was also given funds to buy some furniture and other essential items.
During our discussion, Patrick explained to me how RODS helped him in many ways. His caseworker trained him on how to use Canadian money, opened a bank account for him, and taught him how to bank online to pay for his utility bills; she also helped him to reduce his monthly rent from $792 to $231 through coordination with the Regina Housing Authority and the Saskatchewan Housing Supplement.
His caseworker also registered Patrick for the SaskTel Mobility Cellular Phone discount for persons with disability and he now pays only $3 per month. Additionally, she connected him to the ParaTransit service which he uses for grocery shopping and for going around the city. Patrick has had some difficulties in using his manual wheelchair, particularly on steep pathways. In addition, the wheelchair doesn’t have the storage compartments needed for easier mobility. Rehab, with the help of Patrick’s doctor, will apply for a powered wheelchair.
Patrick was introduced to the Canadian Paraplegic Association and is now a member benefiting from its wide array of programs and services. He told me about the tours he took with Rehab through Regina Public Library and SIAST, as well as the English language assessment he went through. Patrick’s enthusiasm for his English language course starting in August was very obvious.
RODS, in coordination with We Care Health Services, allocated a home caregiver to Patrick, who speaks his language and visits him daily to help him in home cleaning, cooking and bathing.
At the end of my visit, I asked Patrick about how he feels after resettling in Regina. He told me he is relieved, very happy and that his life has been improved significantly. As for his future plans, Patrick wants to study Computer Science. He is so grateful to RODS for all the help it has and continues to offer. This was very evident when he asked for his caseworker to come and visit him more often. I will definitely visit Patrick again to be another building block in his social life here in Regina.
RODS empowered me and even in my short time with Patrick, I have seen how it empowers other newcomers through dedication and professionalism. I felt Patrick’s pride and appreciation for being a new member of the Canadian family, a family that I’m personally proud to be part of.