Entering a new country and integrating into a completely different culture is a physical and mental challenge. According to Dayoush Bagheri, a counsellor at London’s Cross Culture Learner Centre, says his first five years in Canada was a very difficult experience.
“I don’t even want to remember the first five years in Canada but it now I am delighted to be apart of this country.”
Bagheri came to Canada as a refugee and began volunteering as at London’s CCLC and is now working there for almost thirty years. The CCLC is a community organization that supports newcomers and provides them with settlement counselling.
Rifat Hussain, a settlement manager at London’s CCLC has also worked closely with newcomers who have faced trauma and severe culture shock. Two members at the CCLC feel that London needs more mental health services for newcomers as well as Londoners themselves. As the city increases in cultural diversity, understanding a newcomer’s experiences and stories will help them feel safe. She says it takes time for them not only to absorb but to understand.
“If they’re coming from a country that has instability be it political or civil war, that trauma becomes tenfold, that sense of survival. They don’t know how they are going to be treated how they will be perceived.”
“We have to reiterate the message that the police work with the community not against the community, the government is for the people not the people for the government.”
Hussain says although newcomers may speak a different language, there is one language we all know, “we all smile in the same language.”
Rifat Hussain explains a story significant to her about a woman who immigrated to London. “Officers came to her door and said they received complaints that her children were playing outside, unsupervised. She asked, ‘why? Tthere are no land mines here.'”
Hussain says we don’t see the other side. The other person will always be the other and then we can’t work on inclusivity. Until then, we won’t learn to appreciate things differently until we understand the culture shock newcomers experience.
Londoners are encouraged to educate themselves to become more supportive of newcomers and their unseen struggles.