How did you and your group start volunteering with the Together Project?
I had actually been trying really hard to find somewhere to volunteer with newcomers for over a year. Once I found the Together Project, I organized a group with two of my cousins and a close friend. We all went to an orientation session together and were matched with a Syrian family.
What was the experience of volunteering with the Together Project like?
The family we were matched with knew very little English when we first met, but they were so lovely, very warm and welcoming. They have always been so hospitable, feeding us and hosting us in their home. We have been working with them on learning English, while we learn a little Arabic as well. I am a language teacher so I’m very comfortable not being understood and not understanding others. I got used to the language barrier quite quickly because of this. We also helped them organize medical care and transportation services.
What sort of fun activities have you done together?
We love to share new areas of the city with them. When the weather is nice we love to go to the park, have picnics and play soccer. We have also taken them to the ROM and to the beach. We have had so many lovely moments with our families all together.
How have you and your group contributed to the settlement of your matched newcomer family?
My group has become very familiar with bureaucratic systems in the process of this opportunity, from booking translators at the doctor’s office to helping the family apply for housing. We have relied a lot on Google translate, which is a great tool. Ultimately, we have tried to help make sure the family doesn’t feel isolated in Canada and know that they have friends they can contact any time.
What have you learnt from this experience?
I have learnt so much about Syrian history, the ongoing conflict and the refugee settlement process in Canada. I have always kept up on the news but there is so much that I’ve learned that I wouldn’t have without this experience. I have a much stronger connection to Syria than I did before and it’s more important to me now in a whole new way. I think of my Together Project match as my extended family, which is so lovely to have. I think it’s so important for everyone to have people in their life who are outside of their sphere of comfort or knowledge. This experience is very humbling and has been important for everyone involved.
Interview by Natasha Comeau