World Refugee Day: London, Ont., group highlights local excellence and personal stories

On June 20, 2022, The Cross Cultural Learning Centre (CCLC) in London, Ont., hosted their 14th annual Life As A Refugee (LAAR): Building A Community For the Future virtual event in recognition of World Refugee Day. . Google Maps

The Cross Cultural Learning Centre (CCLC) in London, Ont., hosted their 14th annual Life As A Refugee (LAAR): Building A Community For the Future virtual event in recognition of World Refugee Day.

“Our event is in recognition of the plight of those affected by the pandemic, as well as, a look forward to the future of resettlement and integration,” CCLC outlined at the beginning of the event on Monday.

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LAAR featured a refugee panel where four individuals shared their stories of how they came to London, one of whom being 19-year-old Nima Tamang who came to Canada about 10 years ago from a refugee camp in Nepal.

“When I came to Canada, I didn’t really like it because everything was really new to me,” Tamang explained. “But as I grew up and got used to the new country, I liked the school in Canada.”

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Graduating from Montcalm Secondary School this year, Tamang volunteers with various family centres, youth dance groups and community events such as the Holi Festival, and with the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) in helping to organize school events in providing COVID-19 information to students, parents and staff of Sir John A. Macdonald Public School.

He was presented the Engaged Refugee Award during the LAAC event in recognizing his “immese community involvement.”

“The award goes to a London resident who came to Canada as a refugee, and who was actively engaged, demonstrates leadership skills and a desire to make the London community a more inclusive and welcoming place to live,” said keynote speaker Kamal Al-Solayee, author and director of the School of Journalism, Writing, and Media at the University of British Columbia.

“His nominators describe him as working very hard to give back to the northeast London community, which is very evident in all the volunteering he does.”

“When I first came to this country, I was really having a hard time learning English,” Tamang said. “I started getting involved in communities to help with myself learn as well as teach students and children. All of my hard work and effort that I put through volunteering in my community is to make it a better place.”

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In September, Tamang will be studying child, youth and psychology programs at Kinds University with the hopes of becoming a teacher. He aims to focus on helping future refugees learn to settle into their new communities through educational opportunities, in the same way it was done for him.

“The education available here is way better than what I had in my home country,” he explained. “My first impression of Canada happened while I was in school. Compared to Nepal, it [school] wasn’t built by bamboo and I personally just really enjoyed school here.”

However, Tamang did highlight some challenges he and his family faced in transitioning into their new lives in Canada in 2012, specifically those in the healthcare system.

“It’s all related to delays,” Tamang explained. “My brother was really sick, years ago, and we took him to the emergency room where we proceeded to wait for around five to six hours.”

Saifora Khan, a refugee from Afghanistan who moved to Canada in 2021 and another panelist for LAAC, agreed and explained her personal challenges in regards to the Canada’s healthcare system.

“My son was really sick and was not able to breathe,” Khan said. “He has an allergy so I was looking forward for a quick prescription from the doctor to have a very quick help to my son, but nothing could be done until the tests were finished and to be very honest, the test never came.”

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“A solution, I think, to increase walk in and mobile clinics for these people who need checkups because these delays can happen, but more maybe there can be more options,” Khan suggested.

Khan and her family first migrated to Pakistan during the Soviet-Afghan war in the early 1980’s. They returned to Afghanistan in the early 2000’s where she started her career in 2005 with a local organization in supporting women’s rights initiatives in her home country.

“I was offered other opportunities with international donors and aid agencies in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, to work on behalf of them,” Khan said. “I got the first fellowship offered from [the] University of York, England in 2008 on human rights. In 2013, I secured scholarship for my second master’s degree in education from Sweden, and in 2019, I got the US ambassador’s award for my services to woman rights.”

According to Khan, she travelled to over 15 countries in representing women rights and Afghanistan before moving to Canada amid rising tensions back home.

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Now living in London, Khan commented on the smoother transition into the Forest City.

“My husband and I worked very hard to complete our immigration documents, my kids are enrolled in school, and I’m very happy about my introduction to a network of women rights activists here in London,” Khan said.

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According to CCLC, 9,387 refugees sought out their services including housing, settlement and available programs in London from 2020-2021, ranging from over 19 different countries across the globe.

However, Khan said that while Canada might seem like “milk and honey,” that’s not always the reality.

“When I moved to London, I was scammed,” Khan explained. “I really want to give this awareness about the scams that are happening in Canada, especially if the newly arrived immigrants and refugees fall prey to them.”

Khan said she was victim to a fake Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) scam threatening her with arrest if she didn’t send a certain amount of money.

But while scams and other concerns can add to personal fears for refugees as they move to a new country, “remember to try your best, never give up and find ways to join the community,” concluded both Tamang and Khan.

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UN World Refugee Day – Jun 20, 2022

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