Yesterday afternoon was my first time attending The Circle.
Immigration and family services offer support to people who are “new to Canada” for the first twelve months or so. This time is spent helping them to integrate into the community. I thought it would be an interesting opportunity that could help me understand an immigrant’s journey to a country I often take for granted.
I walked into the room and was greeted by a friendly elderly lady who manages and facilitates the group discussions. We started right in with a craft. Making an outline of our hands which we placed onto a bigger heart. The facilitator encouraged us to write our name, where we were from and something special across the collage. We then strung the hearts on the wall and put little fairy lights interspaced among them. The art is to honor women during International Women’s Day.
I sat next to a lovely woman from Somalia. She has been living in Canada for a year now. As she struggled to tell me in English about herself and her family I had to admire her determination.
I have traveled to numerous countries and know what it’s like not to have a decent grasp of the language. Along with all the other challenges one must face when fleeing their country, just responding to simple questions about yourself can add another layer of burden.
I like the idea of a place you can go to practice your English in a safe and non-judgmental setting.
I smiled at my new friend and helped her to cut out her traced hand and heart. We even used some glitter glue to create fingernails. Being open and inviting with a smile and soft gaze I could see put her at ease while we tried to figure out what each other was saying. I could see the understanding come. It’s so random the things you connect on. Explaining how to say “fingernails” was the ice breaker. Then connect fingernail to thumb, index finger, middle finger…we laughed at that one, ring finger-great discussion on what that entailed and baby finger or pinky-which got another smile. I am not sure she understood all of the names but the conversation was flowing.
In the larger group the discussion was on the use of the local library. One of the immigrant ladies had mentioned that she got help setting up her social media account there from one of the volunteers. I was happy to hear that as my next week’s interview is with the adult learning group which is hosted at the library. The group seemed very interested in learning about how to use their social media accounts which is not surprising. I asked their favorite one and Instagram seemed to be the winner.
Finding small things to connect on is so important. It joins us in common interest and opens a window for more in depth understanding and discussion. Simple things like making an appointment or taking a bus are on the list for future discussions.