SASKATOON – Bwe Doh Soe knows exactly the hardships Syrian refugees have had to overcome to arrive in Canada. For 16 years, the only reality Doh Soe knew was one guarded by soldiers.
“I grew up in a refugee camp between Thailand and Burma.”
Here he is as a child, the little boy holding the holding the number five. According to Doh Soe, it’s perhaps one of the only photos that exists from his childhood, if you could call it that.
“We see people die in the camp every day, every day die from health issues or someone got shoot in the border.”
Dreaming of a better life than that in his bamboo hut, his prayers would be answered.
“I heard in the big announcement in the camp that if you want to come to Canada, you just go and register your name,” he said.
Approximately one year later, Doh Soe and his family would leave the camp and embark on an exhausting whirlwind tour filled with many firsts. Their first bus ride and hotel stay where they would be introduced to cutlery and how to use a key.
“It would be the first time sleeping on a bed and how to use a washroom, we didn’t even know how to use a washroom.”
Arriving at their final stop in Saskatoon in April 2008, the family have since rebuilt their lives. Doh Soe says he will be watching closely as Syrian refugees begin to do the same.
“I’m hoping all the best for them.”
As of Jan. 2, 6,300 Syrian refugees arrived in Canada since Nov. 4 of last year. According to federal government, the total number of Syrian refugees who have either already arrived in the country or whose application has been finalized but have not yet travelled to country has now exceeded 11,600.
Every year, some 26,000 refugees from other parts of the world resettle in Canada and Doh Soe says there is still hard work ahead for those arriving.
“When I first came here I didn’t speak English and I felt very lost and confused.”
“I think the best advice is to learn the language and once you learn the language, you can start to find out about Canada and you will be more comfortable and more connected to this place.”
Language proficiency has opened many doors for Doh Soe in his journey towards a better life and no matter how small the interaction with someone local, he says it’s gone a long way to making Canada feel like home.