Noor Al-Anbagi often tells herself to stay positive. She has faced challenges since arriving as a refugee from Iraq, via Egypt, in 2009 with her parents and three younger sisters. Not only has she had to learn English, she cannot hear. To help her connect with the Deaf community, ISANS hired an interpreter through the Society of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Nova Scotians. Alice Mailman still works with Noor and assisted with her interview for this story. They share a laugh when Noor declares: “I’m better than my teacher!”
Noor says she was afraid when she first came to Canada. “But now it’s much better. People are friendly and I feel more comfortable.” She was worried life would be difficult here, but her parents are allowing her the freedom to find her place, while offering needed support.
Noor studied English and sign language at ISANS and was a good student. As an ISANS volunteer she practices sign language with other students, helps them read, encourages them to meet other signers, shows them You Tube signing videos and even helps them learn the bus routes. Noor has taught signs to people at the YMCA and Good Life Fitness where she attends regularly. She is an active member of the Deaf community and worked on a grant application for a project to help bring the hearing and Deaf communities together. She was thrilled to go to Toronto with a youth exchange. “I would like to see more places. I wish I could be a bird and fly!”
Communicating with hearing people, however, does cause frustration. “It’s hard to communicate how I feel and to understand what they’re saying. I try to read lips, ask them to speak slowly and teach them a little sign language.”
Noor has tried the Canadian Citizenship exam, but finds it difficult. Her mother suggests designing the exam differently. “Why not a separate test in front of the judge for deaf people?” she asks. Noor is passionate about becoming Canadian. “I don’t want to return to where there is war.”
Noor and her family returned once to their homeland to visit family they hadn’t seen in years, but it saddened them as conditions there are dangerous. They work at keeping connections strong, talking frequently to family members on Skype.
Noor works part-time as a seamstress, but dreams of becoming an interior designer. She has been studying to get her Driver’s License and recently passed the Beginners test with great excitment. She has a happy home life in a new spacious apartment with her parents and sisters, Zahraa, 16, Miryam, 16 and Rahma, 8. She is teaching sign language to Miryam who in turn teaches her friends. Noor’s mother learned sign language as her own brother and sister are deaf.
“It’s home now,” says Noor’s mother. “Good place, good people, good school. My children are happy.” Says Noor: “I didn’t go to school in Iraq. I just sewed and cooked, and my father kept saying it’s too dangerous to go out.” For Noor, Canada has opened the door to a new life.
Noor’s goal is to support Deaf refugees, and she hopes that her Deaf uncle and friends will one day come to Canada.