In 2019, a lovely refugee family from Syria moved in next door to me. They had six children, spoke no English and were in awe of the wonderful life we have here in Canada. Everything was new for them. They were excited, timid, joyous and apprehensive. I had so much to learn about their culture. It was easy to get involved.

Nasro and the author, Cathrine Maskell

The local imam had put together a group to help sponsor this family through the Blended Visa Office Referred program. He had heard a team was being put together to assist some new arrivals from Africa and encouraged me to reach out and I joined the Brockville Freedom Connection, a group of local people bringing a variety of talents to the table to help with new refugees to our community. It was easy to get involved.

I met Nasro in November 2019. She was young and beautiful and wanted to tell us all about her life in Somalia. First Presbyterian Church in Brockville, Ont. had sponsored her to come to Canada. Our Freedom Connection team was committed to helping her settle into a new life. Rev. Marianne Emig Carr of First PC was part of the team. She was encouraging—she was able to explain funding and systems because she had been part of the sponsorship process for many families. The rest of us in the group were newbies but we were up for the challenge. It was easy to get involved.

Nasro experiencing her first snowfall in Canada

Nasro was in good hands. She would need to go to school, see a doctor, find a place to live. And as it was November in Canada, she would need some winter boots. So, we went to the thrift shops and looked through donations at the church and she was so appreciative. Her English was quite good, so language was not an issue. She liked some different kinds of food, so groceries were sometimes a challenge in our small city. She cooked for us and shared traditions.

Learning about Nasro’s culture and traditions has broadened my life experience. It has allowed me to appreciate more what we have here in Canada. It has helped me celebrate the giving nature of our team members and others in our community. I feel humbled and honoured to have experienced many “firsts” with this young refugee. Her first visit to a Doctor’s office, her first snowfall, her first pancake breakfast, and her first time walking a dog. Thank you Nasro, for making my life better.

I grew up in multicultural Montreal and have come to realize that some communities in small Ontario cities are not as diverse. But in helping Nasro, I found that link that I had been searching for—that world connection to someone who will now have a better life because of the commitment of the people in our local Freedom Connection team. We are making a difference in my community with a team of others who are like-minded. It was easy to get involved.

*Nasro’s sponsorship application was submitted through the Blended Visa Office Referred program and supported by PWS&D’s refugee sponsorship desk.

By Cathrine Maskell, Brockville Freedom Connection Team Member

*These articles were first printed in the Summer 2020 issue of Presbyterian Connection newspaper.