Tag Archives: Settlement

Guest Post: ‘Homage to Canada’ – by Ms. Zayneb Khairy

Vancouver Immigration Blog often receives posts from individuals seeking to share a platform for their thoughts and ideas. When I received this piece by Ms. Zayneb Khairy (through an email to me), I immediately connected to her words. I hope you all enjoy this beautiful account of one Vancouverite’s views of working with Arab refugees and how it has affected her worldview as much as I did. I have not made any edits, and it appears in it’s original form. It is truly inspiring – WT.


Syrian_Refugee_Child_in_Istanbul

Photo captions: By Ahill34 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53280088

I would like to share with you what I consider a perceptive account of my personal experience with the Arab refugees’ situation – particularly Syrians and Iraqis — here in Canada.

I believe most of you know that the Canadian government — in keeping with its humanitarian duties — has been welcoming thousands of refugees, most of whom are fleeing their homelands for a wide array of reasons. However, I assume what most of you do NOT know is that the government is not the sole sponsor for these refugees. Apparently, groups of individuals and private corporations have also been very actively involved in the settlement process of these refugees, either by privately raising funds or by using their own money to sponsor and support people coming from abroad. It turns out that the involvement of the Canadian public dates back to 1979, when Canada started welcoming Vietnamese refugees, something that made Canada a world-class pioneer in such an initiative.

Needless to say, bringing refugees to Canada is just the beginning of a long journey those private sponsors take along with the sponsored refugees, where they venture together into the different possibilities and opportunities awaiting the newcomers in their new home Canada. It is worth mentioning that the amount of resources needed to accommodate the new settlers and assist them in adjusting and acclimatizing to the new environment, are incredulously tremendous. Yet those private sponsors have pledged to do their best to make the lives of their guests as smooth and as comfortable as possible.

For me, this was a stunning revelation. It truly made me question the entire ethical, moral, and ideological systems ingrained in the societies in which I was born and brought up. In fact, hundreds of lingering questions have been bubbling in my head since I came upon these valuable eye opening facts about the refugees’ sponsorship process in Canada. For  starters, it made me think, why on earth would these sponsors go out of their way and go through all the trouble of securing the necessary resources, whether by fundraising or by sharing their own income, to  willingly and all wholeheartedly bring complete strangers, the majority of whom happen to be Muslims, to their home Canada ? Haven’t they heard of xenophobia, for God’s sake? What happened to the ”Islamophobia” narrative? Where did all the animosity the media have been relentlessly trying to feed us go?

Well, apparently Mr. Trump has no audience here, and North America is not after all America! As you will see once you continue reading, fortunately the world is still “Arab and Islam friendly”.

I won’t say I have found the answers to all of my inquiries so far, but I can confidently say I have come to a sound, reasonable understanding, at least for me. I started looking back at the countries I had lived in, mainly in the Arab world, the part of the world where my generation has been struggling, until this very moment, to justify its moral obligation towards those who were facing different forms of hardship, be it war, famine, or natural disasters, and were in need of dire help. Of course, we were expected to fulfil this obligation for some reason. And to be clearer, for some corny, run-of- the mill reason at least from my perspective. There should be a reason, no?

As if the mere idea of lending another human being a hand was not enough, we would frequently hear — particularly in the last few years that followed what has been called the Arab Spring — from those who called themselves scholars and preachers, clichéd justification to legitimize any act of kindness, generosity, or help. For example, we would hear them talk about helping people with whom we shared the same religion, beliefs, history, land or language, or those who belonged to our tribe, race, or sect.

They would go on and on to fill an entire list of vain reasons reflecting centuries of racial and bigoted attitudes.

Sad to say, none of the reasons had to do with our humanity. The message was never as simple and straightforward as “we are morally obliged to help other human beings facing any form of adversity  only for the sake of being humans.” There were always earnest attempts to dig and search for labels, labels laden with bias and prejudice, to apply to those who needed our help, to qualify them and render them help-worthy.

These ignorant attempts have stripped human beings from their perfect sense of humanity. We were unconsciously led to look at those in need from the narrowest, tiniest, and unfortunately ugliest discriminating angle that reflects ages of narrow-minded and shallow thinking.

Going back to the situation here in Canada, I would be lying to say that people here are angels, and that there are no fanatics or extremists. Canada is not the kingdom of heaven , it is just an example of a society that has been trying to put its differences aside and look at the bigger meaningful picture. A lot of people here have been trying to lead a purposeful life where “giving back to the society” is their daily mantra. Those people have created a contagious culture, where volunteer work is valued, respected, and encouraged; where diversity is celebrated, and differences are appreciated. Those are the people who believe that they are meant to live as citizens of the world and don’t limit themselves to the narrow boundaries of their surroundings.

For those of you who know me well, you know that I have no personal gain out of writing these words, nevertheless I found myself morally obliged to share with the rest of the world my deep experience in the midst of global nonsense about race, religion, gender, and nationality. I truly believe that people have been purposefully steered away from the bigger cause of their existence. Instead of peacefully coexisting, and sharing the natural resources available to them, they have been fiercely drawn into endless struggles that have created nothing but frenzy, chaos, and devastation.

Frankly speaking, living in a diverse, inclusive society is not just a blessing, it is a learning experience by itself. It takes living to a whole new level. I believe the learned lesson from my own adventure is that we humans are all part of a bigger beautiful holy puzzle. Each one of us has a crucial, carefully scripted role to play, to make this puzzle a complete masterpiece. Every piece counts, and every single piece is equally important. And that humanity is a priceless value, worth being celebrated by itself.

I would like to invite all of you to share with me this conviction, by pledging to cherish and to live up to our humanity.

Author’s  Statement
Ms. Zayneb Khairy:
IMG_3101
I was born and raised in the Middle East. In 1999 my family came to Canada as immigrants. In 2008 I moved back to the middle east to work as pharmacist as I hold a BS.C in pharmacy. In 2011 I went through an extreme career change, from the health sector to the hospitality  sector, as my family at the time had ventured into the hospitality industry in the Middle East, particularly in Jordan. In 2013 I got married and in 2017 my husband and I decided to move to Vancouver, so here I am back to Canada but this time working as an Arabic / English interpreter for new comers especially refugees who have limited English proficiency. 

Interview with Paul Sohn: Reflections from a Successful Korean-Canadian/American Immigrant

548008_10100402301756061_1962451805_n

Earlier this year, I had the distinct privilege of interviewing my former undergraduate colleague and friend Paul Sohn.

Paul (http://paulsohn.org/) is an award-winning author, mentor, leadership expert, and devout Christian among many other titles. He comes from very hardworking and successful roots, one that began when he came to Canada from Korea, by himself, as a 14-year old student.

He has since left Canada to pursue a successful career in the United States, which began at Boeing and has now landed him with GIANT Worldwide. He has some excellent and inspirational advice for those starting out in Canada, particularly from the Korean diaspora.

  1. What is your name, age, and nationality? Where do you currently live and work?

My name is Paul Sohn. I’m a 28 year old Korean. I currently work as a Consulting Associate at GIANT Worldwide and am pursuing a Masters in Organization Development at Pepperdine University.

  1. When did you first immigrate to Canada? Can you tell us why your family chose to immigrate to Vancouver from South Korea?

At the age of 14, I left everything I had in Korea – including my family and friends – to start a new life in Canada all by myself. Frankly speaking, I honestly didn’t see any future for in Korea. The societal and cultural pressures to conform to a certain lifestyle was overbearing. In many ways, I was deemed a “loser” and my prospects for a successful life eluded me. In an attempt re-design my life, I mustered the courage and decided to leave everything behind and start a new life.

  1. What do you remember about your early days in Vancouver?

The first several years was about the transition from a young boy to young adult. I experienced many new things in life. New homestay family. New school. New friends. New language. New culture and so on. Everything was about new beginnings and I was doing my best to acclimate to the new culture.

  1. What types of things did you do to help integrate yourself into this city when you arrived?

I had the privilege of living with a Canadian homestay family during high school. They treated me as if I was their real child. They poured out their love. They invested in my growth. They cared about my future. I remember spending countless hours talking about all kinds of topics. Our relationship has continued to flourish since then. Now, I call them “mom” and “dad” and the homestay children as my “brothers” and “sisters.” This support network enabled me to stay focused and adjust to the new environment.

  1. Did you feel any challenges being a new immigrant and a Korean in Vancouver? Did that change over time?

As a Korean, the temptation to surround myself with same Koreans both at school and social life was real. After all, people find it a lot more comfortable being around with people who speaks the same language and understands your culture. However, I felt a strong need to go outside of my comfort zone and to stretch myself and challenge the status quo. Without focus and intentionality, it’s so easy to choose the easy road. Instead, I chose the narrow path. The journey wasn’t easy. I had to face my fears and overcome my weaknesses to become part of the mainstream.

  1. Why did you choose to leave Vancouver?

After graduating from high school and university, I moved to Portland, OR in the United States for my first and new full-time job. Not only was it difficult to find a career that aligned my vocational interests, my parents moved from Korea to the States a few years prior to my graduation. Thankfully, I was able to obtain a green card allowing me to work in the States which offered greater career mobility.

  1. Do you hope to return to live here permanently in the future?

I don’t have any immediate plans to return back to Canada at this point. At point, however, I’d like to come back and live for at least several years.

  1. What would you recommend to new immigrants who may be unable to secure employment or develop networks in Canada?

First and foremost, learn the language. Without being proficient in English, your choices for secure employment becomes virtually impossible. I also think connections and building relationships with various people will help you to find career opportunities in Canada. Studies show that most people get a job through personal networks instead of submitting your application online.

  1. What culturally specific challenges do you think exist for new immigrants from Korea to Vancouver?

Like I said earlier, there is a tendency for Koreans to limit their network with just Koreans. It’s vital to expand your network and build a culturally diverse portfolio of connections.

  1. What do you see for the potential of Korean business in North America, and specifically Vancouver?

I have seen a growing number of bright Koreans moving to North America. As they engage with culture and immerse themselves as part of the mainstream, I believe this will generate more opportunities for growth. In addition, the rise of Hallyu (Korean Wave) worldwide will create greater interest for Koreans to create a blue ocean market.

  1. As someone of the Korean Diaspora community who uses faith as a major motivation factor how do you believe faith can be a useful tool for new Korean immigrants to Canada? What local Vancouver faith-based organizations would you recommend?

Faith is a powerful source of hope for immigrants to Canada. In particular, Koreans are known for their religious fervor and belief in God. Many immigrants find churches to find a community where they can find “home.” Many rely on this religious community as a way to find new vocational opportunities as well. The practical benefits of joining a church cannot be ignored.