What is your role at Together Project?
I started volunteering with them with other groups of people. Most of the time I was organizing events. For example, Together Project had a picnic event last year and basically my role was to take care of the kids because they had more than one activity. I was responsible for the support team with other people who also volunteered with Together Project. Each time they do an event we go as a group and each one of us is responsible for something but most of the time we greet people, take care of the kids, or make sure that everything is okay at the events.
Why did you decide to volunteer?
I myself am a newcomer. I came three years ago and I received help from volunteers in the community so I found out it’s very important for anyone who is new in the country to find supportive people around them. I started volunteering in many places and one of them was Together Project because it’s about connecting you with the newcomer or refugee. You can talk to the newcomer and be with them. Most of the time we enjoy activities together, eat together, and talk about our experiences. I thought that if I volunteered at places like that, it would be helpful for the newcomer but at the same time helpful for me because I would learn from the newcomer and Canadians as well. In most countries volunteering is not important but in Canada it is very important to volunteer so you can get experience. But, at the same time, you are giving back to your community because if you don’t give back you will not get support. I want to give back to the community but at the same time I know how hard it is to find supportive people around you so that’s why I wanted to work in a project that I could talk to newcomers personally and help them and support them with the things they need help with.
How have you found your time in Canada are you enjoying yourself, do you feel like you’ve adapted?
The first year was really hard. I understood that the first year would be hard but I tried to volunteer so I could learn more about the community. I struggled in the education system and the employment system but I tried to meet people, learn from them and their experiences. I also joined many workshops which helped me. My Canadians friends were so supportive so I used to ask them and ask my neighbours or anyone who was willing to help about the community so I could learn more about the community. The main thing that helped me adapt in the Canadian community and improve my English was volunteering. It’s a great thing to do so you can improve your English and at the same time learn more about the community and the services within the community.
Do you think Together Project has helped you make new connections as well as form long term relationships?
Yes, of course because most of the events are between Canadians and newcomers so I am not only meeting people from my community but at the same time I’m learning more about other cultures and I’m meeting people from different cultures. It’s really helpful in making connections and making new friends and learning from them.
How are you helping to build more welcoming communities in Canada?
Canada is a place that welcomes everyone no matter who you are, where you come from or what you look like. That’s what is good about Canada and Toronto especially. I am willing to help anyone and help other people understand that we should all care about each other and welcome each other. We don’t know what’s going to happen after many years here. We might actually go somewhere else or other people may come here so I think it’s great to understand that we all need each other so we can make this place a diverse place and a good place for everyone.
Is there anything you think a prospective volunteer should know?
I think the most important thing is to understand that newcomers and refugees come here and they can’t trust anyone quickly so we need to understand that they went through many things. They are educated people, they used to work, they used to do all this stuff. It will be hard for them in the beginning so we need to be patient and understand these people and help them adapt and learn more about the community because if they learn about the community they will love the community and I’m pretty sure they will give back later. That’s my experience. I went through this, I understand this and I think what we should do is support others so we can make sure they are also supportive and they can build the community.
Interview by Indira Monteiro