Connecting to a Community Garden helped me connect with something I loved back in my homeland!
October 24, 2017

Alexandra Neighbourhood House’s vision is a vibrant, inclusive, and caring community. We acknowledge that we live, work, and play on the unceded, occupied, ancestral and traditional lands of the Coast Salish peoples; locally the Semiahmoo First Nation. As a member of the Association of Neighbourhood Houses of BC - We are diverse individuals of all ages, colors, appearances, ethnicities, nationalities, faith & beliefs, cultures, abilities, socio-economic and education levels, sexual orientations & gender identities. The diversity of our staff team reflects our community, and Mo’s story is a reflection of his journey to Canada and his work with Alexandra Neighbourhood House.

My story coming to Canada began one cold winter night a few years ago. Right from the beginning there were some things that I found shocking arriving here. Within the first few days I found the freezing cold weather and the short days here in Canada hard to adjust to. I was used to warm tropical weather and the sun being up until the early evening every night. Dark and cold were things that were new to me.     

Understanding and speaking English can be a challenge coming here. Unlike many of the newcomers coming to Canada I was lucky that I already had English as one of the four languages that I speak. Others who land here have the challenge of learning language added to their many adjustments and things that they learn coming to their new home. Filling out forms, applying for things and day to day life is more challenging when you cant speak or write English. 

During my first months here I missed the familiar things from my home. I longed for connection to my family and friends. I again was lucky that I came to Canada already with a support community here. My wife, extended family and friends here all helped me feel connected but there was still a place inside me that felt the ache of missing the life that I knew and the things I was familiar with. Finding foods that tasted like foods I ate at home was something I longed for and missed. I was lucky in that I had a community of people who all loved and cared about me. Many arrive in this country on their own and are isolated and have to try to find their way by themselves.

There are many programs that help people who immigrate to Canada find work, build language, and connect to services. Even with those supports the journey of settling here can be a hard one. Imagine having to retrain because the credentials you had in your home country aren’t recognized here and you also have learn English and find a way to support yourself and your family. And even after all of the supports getting hired can be challenge because often employers are looking for Canadian work experience. My experience was different though.  I again was blessed very early in my time here with a job that connected me with community and helped provide income.  Beginning my job was a significant part of my journey in settling here in Canada.  My place of work was very welcoming, gave me opportunity to contribute and be able to use my gifts and abilities. It was and still is a significant part of my story and I am very thankful! 

Through my workplace I also had the opportunity to connect to a Community Garden project that also helped me connect with something I loved back in my homeland, which was growing my own food. I have made friends and feel connected to the community where I live more than I ever have!

With every passing day I feel more ‘at home’ here in Canada. There are still times when I miss my country of origin but now I feel like I have been given the gift of having two homes. I am still on the journey of learning. 

One of the things that brings me joy is getting to walk with other Newcomers to Canada who are just beginning their journey in here. I love to share my experience; the things I have learned and help them find the connections that they need. I know the importance of having someone who can help and encourage because I myself have experienced that in my journey.

Mo is far more skilled than his current role requires, yet in spite of this, he embraces his work, continuing to bring his enthusiasm, passion and commitment to his work with Alexandra Neighbourhood House, contributing to the vibrancy of his new community.

We are better because of Mo, and all of our colleagues and neighbours who contribute their unique voices in our shared community. 

This short was shared by Mohammed and Alexandra Neighbourhood House in support of Surrey NEW.