Three Years Later: Omar’s Story of Belonging

It has been three years since Omar arrived in Canada. Today, like many Syrian refugees who arrived early in 2016, he is preparing his application for his Canadian citizenship.

Photo: Omar and Fatime (volunteer) during a one-on-one French lesson in 2018.
Photo: Omar during his first activity with Say Ça!
back in October 2016

While talking with me, Omar remembers his journey. “We had three interviews before arriving in Canada. My whole family was happy to come here, even though we did not know what the country would be like.” He recalls that his first few months here were very hard because he did not leave his house. “I never went to school before coming to Canada. Here, I went to school and made Latino, Quebecois and Syrian friends – Bahae and Diyae “. His new life in Canada has brought him a lot of new experiences. “What I liked the most about my new life in Canada was seeing the snow. In my old neighborhood, in Turkey, it barely snowed. Here, it piles up a lot and I love it!” One day, at the mosque in Laval, he met Rihab (student coordinator in 2016). She introduced him to Say Ça! and he has been a student here since October 2016. He finds that Say Ça! has helped him a lot to improve his French reading comprehension and writing.

Omar joined Say Ça! shortly after his arrival in Canada and he has established strong links with several volunteers. Omar has never hesitated to ask us for help when needed, even outside of Say Ça! hours, which has allowed us to develop a strong relationship and celebrate his successes on a daily basis.

Today, many things have changed in Omar’s life. In relation to his feeling for Canada, he says “Canada is like my country”, before adding “No, Canada IS my country. Yes, Canada is my country”. Omar continues to love the snow, but now his favorite thing to do is eat poutine. “I gained weight!” He says, blushing.

Now, Omar is very committed to his community. He has just completed his first year working at Adonis. It was his first work experience in Canada. Moreover, he has also completed two years with the cadets. He is very fond of getting involved there and is now preparing to become a cadet officer.

In terms of his experience with Say Ça!, he would like to thank three people in particular. “Gabriel, Aïah and Marion have helped me a lot with my writing in French. It’s very challenging to write. Now, I want to get my high school diploma and be hired by the Canadian army.”

Photo: Omar’s letter to Anna (executive director), after doing the interview that lead to this article. (Translation: Hello Madame Anna Calderon, this woman is very funny, loyal, and respectful. When I see you I am happy because everything I do in Canada I tell you, because I trust her. This volunteer is always smiling and laughing.)
Photo: Gabriel (volunteer), Omar, and his brothers during one of Say Ça!’s family activities in 2017.