Welcome to Ottawa
The first time Entisar Yusuf met Shukria Samanter, a few months after Entisar immigrated to Ottawa from Ethiopia in 2011, Shukria said “Welcome to Ottawa.”
Those were not empty words, as Shukria would soon be like family and a guide to the newcomer. Shukria herself had come to Ottawa 26 years earlier as a refugee from Somalia. “I remember how hard it was to navigate the system when I arrived in Canada,” said Shukria. “Sometimes the alienation can be even more profound for women arriving in a new country, without family and knowledge of the community. There are often more barriers for newcomer women who want to integrate into Canadian society.”
When they first met, Shukria helped Entisar by taking her on a furniture shopping trip, even negotiating installation payments and transportation for the purchases.
“Shukria has been exceptionally helpful to me,” said Entisar. “She introduced me to her social circle and invited me for dinner. She has guided and mentored me through my work search and connected me to the Catholic Centre for Immigrants’ Career Transitions for International Health Professionals program, which helped me to find employment.”
“Shukria has become part of my family, like a mother or aunt,” adds Entisar. “Although I have my husband and two children with me in Ottawa, I left my large extended family back in Ethiopia. She provides me with both practical and emotional support. Her wisdom, shared experiences and constant words of encouragement have kept me going.”
“It’s very important for women to help other women,” explains Shukria. “When I was a newcomer a woman working as a settlement counsellor with the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO) was my guide and mentor. She helped me prepare for a job interview. When I thanked her she just said, “pass the torch.”
Shukria has had a long career in immigrant settlement and social services. She recently retired from a position with the Youth Services Bureau and previously worked with OCISO. She expects to continue her volunteer work with newcomers, so the solidarity and kindness she has shown in welcoming Entisar and many other newcomers to Ottawa, will continue from many years to come.