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I was happy to see integration to Algonquin territory and indigenous culture related programming in 2014 WOW. Please continue to involve local Aboriginal organisations and…

Linda Manning
WOW 2014 participant, Senior Fellow, University of Ottawa
The target beneficiary of the work of OLIP is the whole community. In this short period we have planted together important seeds for Ottawa’s development.   

Dick Stewart
OLIP Council Chair
I’m really impressed with the level of energy and commitment around the Health and Wellbeing table and look forward to continuing collaboration between OLIP and OPH.

Marcela Tapia
Ottawa Public Health
Canada has been shaped by people who came from all over the world to build this country. Welcoming Ottawa Week offers a platform for Ottawa residents to celebrate both this…

Alex Munter, Chair of the OLIP Council and President and CEO of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre
We are very pleased to have done the “Opportunity Cost of Not Investing in Interpretation” report – it is so important to have clarity on these challenges and…

Hindia Mohamoud, Director, OLIP
The City of Ottawa will continue to play a lead role in the implementation of the Ottawa Immigration Strategy, just as we did in the founding of OLIP.

Steve Desroches
City Councillor and Deputy Mayor of Ottawa
OLIP helps to unite and share scarce resources for greater impact by working together in the field of student education.

Walter Piovesan
Associate Director of Education, Ottawa Carleton District School Board
All the WOW events that I went to were great – WOW does give a sense of a community trying to improve its attraction and retention!

Caroline Andrew
Professor, University of Ottawa
The Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre is so happy to have joined the OLIP Health and Wellbeing Sector Table. It is clear that OLIP cares about immigrants and refugees and…

Wendy Tang, Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre
The OLIP Council is committed to leadership.  In only a few years, we have a common vision and priorities, and are up to the task of implementing the Ottawa Immigration Strategy.

Salimatou Diallo
OLIP Council Vice Chair, Assemblée de la francophonie de l'Ontario

Student Helps Newcomers from Syria Adapt to Life in Ottawa

3 AaronWhen Syrian teenaged twins, Chabel and Johny Dawhari arrived in Ottawa in February 2016, they were struck by the cold weather and worried about what the future would hold for them.

Five years earlier they had fled their home in war-torn Syria with their older brother and parents for Beirut, Lebanon. Now they were in yet another new country, feeling somewhat lost and insecure.

Starting in a new school in the middle of the school year would be difficult and confusing for any teenager, let alone the Dawhari twins who lacked context and an understanding of the new school system. One of their grade nine teachers at École secondaire catholiqueFranco-Cité noticed their dilemma and found them a peer helper, Aaron Kabemba, through the Support Services for New Arrivals program.

Aaron had stood in their shoes as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo – now he was ready to help others work through the same issues he had encountered when he arrived in Ottawa a year ago.
Aaron’s bright smile and easy friendship was just what the boys needed. “It was a bit hard arriving here, with the cold climate and without friends, says Johny. “We didn’t even know the basics, like how to take the bus, and Aaron provided a helping hand,”added Johny.

Aaron, who during the first semester was with the boys in five of their six classes, became a positive influence – assisting with their studies and answering their day to day questions. “It was at lunch hour during the first day we met Aaron that he took the time to guide us through the things we didn’t understand,” said Chabel. “Now we not only study together, we eat together and socialize after school. Aaron is not only our best friend, he is like our brother!”

Imad Dawhari, the boys’ father reiterates the value of this newfound friendship. “My family has been through so much turmoil and would have been really hard for my sons to adjust without Aaron at their side.”

Chabel is proud to be a “newcomer” – a term he much prefers to “refugee”. He recognizes the importance of integrating into every aspect of life in Canada. “Initially we met a few friends at school who were from Lebanon,” said Chabel. “The problem was we only spoke Arabic with them. Aaron helps us with our French and that’s really important for us.”

When Aaron moved to Ottawa in 2015, he had two cousins who helped him adjust. “I had a similar experience to Johny and Chabel and am so happy I can give back to other newcomers,” said Aaron. He feels like the benefits of this new friendship are reciprocal in many ways. “I feel so much part of their family as they belong to mine. I even enjoy Syrian food now and am learning to speak Arabic!”

Like any other teenagers, when not busy with their studies, the trio enjoy playing video games and soccer and just plain kidding around and sharing jokes on their phones. As they head into exams soon, what they most look forward to is summer vacation, together as new friends.