Walaa’s Story  

Walaa, a recent arrival from Syria, shares how she transformed her resettlement experience from an ordeal to an opportunity in Canada. This is her story;  

Where is Lebanon? (Geology.com)

“I moved from Syria to Lebanon when I was 16. Four years later I was a supervising assistant at the United Nations. Once my uncle offered to sponsor us, my family and I waited patiently for the Canadian embassy to contact us. I wasn’t ready to move to a new country. 

My uncle welcomed us here. They helped us settle and register for some English classes to improve our language skills. 

I struggled with English in the beginning, but the real challenge was adapting to the Canadian way of thinking, communicating, and socializing. It took me some time to understand and accept it. I feel people here have less of a stressful life than we had back home, they do not understand our stress. Even when they face a problem they keep going and take action because the space allows them to do so.  

One of the teachers at the language school helped me adapt. She supported me a lot, even after I finished school and became a mentor to me. She helped me understand that I need to take matters into my own hands, not just sit, and feel sorry for myself. We shouldn’t keep victimizing ourselves for experiencing war and not move forward with our lives.  

Walaa’s Art (@artbywalaa/Instagram)

One of the major things I learned from my move to Canada is to become more independent. I learned that it is ok to make mistakes; that is how we learn, grow and be successful. I constantly remind myself that it is important to keep learning. I am learning to be more open minded in discussions and to respect others’ opinions.  

In 2020, after enhancing my artistic skills., I started my own business. Walaa’s Art started from my passion for resin and abstract art. I participated in artisan markets and I’m currently working on creating my own website and partnering with stores and galleries to sell my art.  

In addition to my art, I wanted to do similar work to what I had done in Lebanon. So, I started looking for employment opportunities. Once I was introduced to Jumpstart, I received support in writing my resume and participated in an interview preparation session. I have done many job interviews before, but the one-on-one session with the employment team at Jumpstart was very helpful in improving the way I answered interview questions in a professional manner.  

The result: I aced my Interview with Nissa Homes. I currently work there with as a support worker. I love the environment and my respectful colleagues.  

For refugees moving to Canada, I would advocate for making the best out of the move. You cannot just come here hoping to get support from the government and people who are nice enough to help. You have to start working, improve yourself and prove that you are worthy of a chance in this life.  We have to leave a good impression of who a Syrian is, who a Lebanese is, who a refugee is. We must support ourselves, our families, people back home and people in our new homes too.”

For more information about Jumpstart’s Refugee Talent Hub Program, visit https://jumpstartrefugee.ca/programs/talent/