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Welcome Home to Canada Participant:
Beatrice Nzigire (2015)

A Journey Towards Happiness

Written by Jo Kostin

My name is Beatrice which means happiness.

I’m originally from Congo and have been living in Canada for a year. In Congo I was a social worker for a non-governmental, non-profit organization that was helping people who live in closed societies far from central cities. These people keep past traditions, some of them don’t even wear clothes to this day and they are still very much afraid of the “white men”. If you speak Swahili or French they assume that you are sent by the white men to take them into slavery. During my time on this job I participated in building two schools. That helped to convince them, especially the women, to get educated. We taught people French and different skills which helped them to develop and see a different point of view. Having products to sell allowed them the opportunity to make contact with the people they were afraid of and that helped relieve their anxiety.

I left Congo because I feel instead of insuring the security of the population the government there is destroying it. Soldiers were disturbing the peace on the street and I decided to get away. I crossed the border on foot to Burundi and got a passport at the Congolese embassy. After that, I went to Rwanda, then to Kenya through Uganda and from there I flew to Thailand. I lived in Thailand for four years working with refugees from everywhere. I was translating and helping them settle using mostly body language but also French and English.

When my case was referred to the Canadian embassy I was very happy because Canada is known as the most peaceful country in the world. I have never traveled to all the countries in the world but from what I’m experiencing right now, it seems to be true and it has made me a peaceful person. I feel that Canada considers me precious. For example, in my country it is hard for people like me, who are small or slim, to find a job. It is believed that we are not strong enough. After getting my degree in social studies, I got my job right away only because I volunteered there for four years and so I had the needed experience already and they didn’t have to train me. People here don’t look at my body type, they don’t see my color. They don’t care about any of that. That’s why in Canada I’m experiencing a peace that I never felt before.

I can’t describe how excited I am to work at Pier 21. I heard about the Welcome Home to Canada program and sent my resume trying to apply for a couple of positions. Then, I decided to visit the museum. I really like museums and I visited some in Halifax but they were not about people. I wanted to hear stories about people and what the immigration process was like in past times. Susie was my tour guide and I had a really fantastic time. I thought to myself: “I wish I could work or even volunteer here”. On that day they called me for the interpreter position interview.

I’m also working at Immigrant Settlement Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) as an on call settlement worker. Drawing from my own experience as an immigrant, I can help new arrivals facing the same challenges I did. For instance, both in Congo and Thailand the busses run without a schedule. Due to the great demand, there are about 20 busses stopping at a station every 10 minutes or so. So there is no such thing as “missing the bus”. Understanding this difference took me quite a few missed busses and late arrivals.

At ISANS I met a woman from Congo. We started talking and I found out that her sister is actually married to my uncle. She phoned them and through them I contacted my parents. When I called them they thought that it was a dream because they believed I was killed. We cried and they were very glad that I was in Canada. They reminded me that when I was five years old I said that I would go to Canada. My father got me a t-shirt with the Canadian flag on the chest and on the back it said “I am Canadian”. So everyone who saw me from behind asked if I was Canadian and I replied “Yes I am”. I kept that t-shirt for more than 10 years believing that one day I will be Canadian. Everybody dreams. My dream to become a Canadian came true. Now I am happy, just like my name says.