“Uncle Samson, do this. Uncle Samson, do that.” Those are magical words to Samson Woidgberiel, who arrived in Halifax as a refugee in 2016 to live with his sister and her family. She had already been living here for several years and she and her husband and four daughters, from 6 to 11, welcomed Samson into their home.
Samson, 27, came here from Kenya, where he had fled from his native Ethiopia in 2009 for political reasons. It was a painful journey. “I bussed and walked across the border; it wasn’t easy.” He worked in community cafes in Kenya but when his sister visited, they discussed her plans to sponsor him in Canada. “When the day came, it was very nice. You have a lot of dreams and arriving in Canada was a great moment.”
He enrolled at ISANS and met with a settlement counsellor. “They really helped me a lot. It was amazing.” He could function in English as he had studied it in school and also had opportunities to use it in Kenya. But Samson, whose first language is Amharic, has been taking courses to improve, including an online course he works on late in the evenings.
He also took part in the Immigrant Youth Employability Program that includes job information, job search techniques and interview skills. “They helped with my resume, cover letters; I learned about Canada work culture. Everyone helped us like a family, they gave us support.” Through this program, he received a 24-week work placement at the Canadian Tire service centre in Cole Harbour, which has been extended.
Samson appreciates the job despite a 1½-hour commute each way. He says he has learned the basic skills a car mechanic needs to know—changing oil, tires, batteries and bulbs. “The more I learn, the more I like it,” says Samson. “They are interested in me and have given me a job; it’s not easy getting a job as a newcomer.” He is also on the waiting list to attend Nova Scotia Community College to study electronics.
Samson misses his family and friends at home, and his own culture, but he believes his age makes it easier to adapt. Also, living with his sister means he doesn’t feel as lonely. He enjoys bike riding with his nieces, hiking, and going to malls and downtown. And he says he is getting used to the weather although he’s still sometimes surprised to see the sun shining brightly on very cold days.
“For me life here is positive. I live in peace; I have work; my family is here. I have no reason to complain. ISANS’ program gave me everything to go smoothly. I am thankful for everything.”