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Meet Safaa

“Hamilton is the first place, for everything”
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My name is Safaa Bahar and I'm also Sudanese Jordanian and I'm a person who moved to Canada and Hamilton last year. So I have been in Canada for one year and a half. I'm a social someone who loves culture and languages, yeah that's me.

I felt included from the first day in Canada and in Hamilton when I know there is no difference between me and Canadian. Like I have most of the rights. I can study, I can ask for loan I can go for university. And this thing I didn't have in Jordan because I don't have the citizen there. And other than that I felt included with my neighbors when they help us to shovel the snow, exchange gifts and Christmas, give us things like costumes to celebrate Halloween. That was so lovely you know and it was really like feeling warm and you feel like you are part of this community. And when I saw like Arabic stores, hijab stores like you feel included you know you feel like you are part of this country and it's really multicultural.

To be honest like the most hardest thing is to start everything from scratch, relationship, education even like trying to know your neighbors. The city you get lost so easily, we didn’t know how to use the bus. We didn't know anything you know so it was very hard to start everything from scratch. And I think but the most hardest thing for me and it's still until now is making a friendship. And I like we used to the city, we used to everything, we know how, we know everything right now but it's still making a friend is very hard. I still think I don't have a support here, I don't have people, I don't have that friends that I used to have in Jordan.

Hamilton mean to me a lot especially when I went to Ottawa and the people ask me where are you from. And they mean which city and that was the first time because in Hamilton people ask where you're from you say like which country you know but in Ottawa they ask where you're from I said Hamilton.They say nice comments about Hamilton. I was so happy and I felt so proud to say I'm from Hamilton. But I feel Hamilton is like the first place, the first place for everything for my job, for myself, language everything. It's the first place and the last place.

So right now I'm a part-time student and a part-time employee trying to improve myself in a certain ways. I would love to see myself maybe after five years and a job that help people or helping newcomers to feel more welcome more engaging in the city, help immigrants from different countries different status because I feel like not all of them get the same support. I would like all feelings I had in my first year or the challenges I would love to change that things. You know Hamilton is a great place but I would love to see more supports like from like mental health support and all that stuff you know. So I will see myself in a job helping other people and be more creative and more successful in my life and making something for Hamilton.

I'm so proud of myself of how I achieved and I learned. Too many things were not allowed in my culture or my country because of religion reasons or culture reasons or whatever, to ride a bike, you know. We didn't used to have a bike in Jordan because we didn't have enough money to buy it and it's not allowed for a girl to ride a bike. And I just finished my swimming lesson last month you know. So I know how to swim you know. I started my 22 to learn how to swim. It's something shocked most of the Canadian I told them but we didn't have a sea in Jordan you know it's a dry country. And I know how to drive. I just get my G2 last Tuesday so I'm trying to improve myself. I'm trying to open my mind and like really try to take advantage as much as I can from this country and try to improve myself and do not let anyone distract me or put me in a box.

Hamilton for me is the first place for everything for all the success for all the things I have done in my life in Canada it starts in Hamilton.

Safaa, who considers herself a “citizen of the world” arrived in Hamilton in 2021 as a refugee from Sudan after having grown up in Jordan and Chad. At only 19 years old, moving to Canada meant adjusting to language, community, employment, and cultural barriers during both the height of a global pandemic and the onset of her young adulthood.

With her energetic, warm personality and ambitious spirit, Safaa has wasted no time since arriving in Hamilton. Seeking any opportunity possible to grow her skills and find a path for herself, she quickly connected with the local settlement sector and found her first job at Welcome Inn Community Centre, a place she considers a second home.

In less than two years, Safaa has mastered an entirely new language, started her career, been accepted into post secondary studies and gained an abundance of new skills from - riding a bike to driving a car.

Now enrolled as a full-time student, she dreams of graduating and giving back to the city that helped her to thrive.


Migration Context:

Safaa’s story highlights youth immigration, growing independence as she matures and arrives in a new country, and many first experiences. 

  • Over half of the world’s refugees are under the age of 18, and young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 are overrepresented in the refugee population. 
  • Among recent immigrants to Canada, about 11% were between the ages of 15 and 24. Nearly 90% of these youth belong to a racialized community. 

Stretching from the teen years into one’s twenties, youth for many covers the period of time when they are completing their education, entering the workforce for the first time, and starting to live independently. Experiences and opportunities at this life stage set a foundation for well-being in later life. For immigrants and refugees, this is a particularly tenuous stage of life as so much development happens simultaneously with immersion into a new culture and the presence of new peer groups. On top of this, young refugees may have experienced personal trauma, family separation, and disrupted schooling or absence of formal schooling altogether.  

Despite these challenges, many newcomer youth show incredible resilience, allowing them to cope and even to thrive in their new surroundings. 

  • Resilience can be fostered by the surrounding environment and by the presence of meaning, values, and faith in one’s life. 
  • Supporting networks of family, friends, teachers, and community institutions are also important to developing resilience.

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