Newcomer Story: Ramtha Gawrieh

Ramtha and her familyRamtha and her family were living in Lebanon before they moved to Manitoba. Originally from Syria, they fled the country to escape rising hostilities. Facing the harsh realities of war while caring for and travelling with a newborn child was hard for the family as anyone would imagine. This is why, above everything else, they are most grateful for their peaceful and safe life that they now have in Manitoba.

Unlike most Syrian families who came to Canada by way of refugee sponsorship, Ramtha’s family immigrated through the sponsorship of her brother-in-law who was living in Winnipeg. She remembers their arrival on July 4, 2016: “When we arrived, we found that everything was ready for us. My brother-in-law had rented a house and he bought all the furniture. It was good at first,” Ramtha said. After a year, her brother-in-law moved to a different province leaving them to fend for themselves.

“Learning with EO is “very useful because there is grammar, there is writing, vocabulary and expressions. The teachers are very professional. Teacher Blaine and Amrita are very helpful. Even in the Coffee Chat and workshops, there is a kind of discussion and it’s very nice. I like the articles and the kind of materials that we use because everything is useful. It’s excellent service for us.”

Starting from scratch and setting goals

Despite this setback, the young family knew that they had to adapt. They did not waste time and started working on their settlement in Manitoba.

“Our next concern was to learn the language. After we took our tests from WELARC, we had to wait for our placement in a school because I had a daughter and needed childcare. So I waited until January 2017,” Ramtha said. She started learning English at Mosaic and aimed to earn CLB 6 so that she could enroll in a course at Red River College. Ramtha was waitlisted at Red River so she continued her studies at Enhanced English Skills for Employment (EESE) while waiting.

After studying at EESE, Ramtha delivered her second child. It was at this point that she learned about LINC Home Study. “This was the first time I’ve heard of it,” Ramtha said. “If only I had known about this earlier, I would’ve started LINC with English Online (EO) on my first year. But I’m happy that I’ve joined EO. Online learning works for me. You can do a lot online. You can have a job and study online. In my case, I have kids to take care of,” she said.

Ramtha adds that learning with EO is “very useful because there is grammar, there is writing, vocabulary and expressions. The teachers are very professional. Teacher Blaine and Amrita are very helpful. Even in the Coffee Chat and workshops, there is a kind of discussion and it’s very nice. I like the articles and the kind of materials that we use because everything is useful. It’s excellent service for us.”

Earlier, she had finished a short course on Early Childhood Education. But Ramtha wants to get more education and training to boost her career options so she is continuing to set language goals. Through LINC, she is well on her way to achieving a CLB 8 which will allow her to enroll in a Certificate in Adult Education program in one of the universities in Manitoba.

Still adjusting

After living in Winnipeg for two and half years, Ramtha feels like they still have a long way to go before she can say that they are settled. “We had my brother in law only on the first year. We don’t have friends or family here. But we are trying to adapt,” she said. “We still don’t have jobs yet, I just work for a few hours at Mosaic. After I attended their program, I had the chance to work at Mosaic as a volunteer. And now they are giving me a few hours to work in their family programs. But after I gave birth to my second baby I had to stay at home,” she added.

Ramtha says that their adjustment to Manitoba is made easier by the friendly people and the opportunities immigrants are given to get an education. “I like the people here. They are very helpful. When we go to any organization, any place, we find that people just want to help. They call this place ‘Friendly Manitoba’ and I say that this is true.”

“Another thing I like is that they give you a lot of opportunities to study. Even after they help you learn the language, they give you a chance to complete your studies or maybe finish what you started back home. Most people I meet want to study. Because when you earn a certificate here, it increases your chances to have a good job,” she said.

Tips to newcomers:
Ramtha was a little hesitant when I asked if she had some advice for newcomers saying that “I myself I need a lot of tips because we are still adjusting,” she said, laughing. However, she shared the following:

  1. Come with family. “When you come to Manitoba, I think the best is to come with family. It will be very hard if you are alone. When you come with family, you have their support. There a lot of challenges here and you will need their help. Especially in winter because a lot of us have the winter blues. It’s important to have someone talk to or someone to visit.”“I myself miss our church community. We haven’t found our church here so we go to different ones when we need to. We usually to the Coptic Church because they speak Arabic and Egyptian people are very nice. They help us a lot.”
  2. Take advantage of educational opportunities. “Like I said, it’s a good thing that we are given many opportunities to study. Immigrants can take courses and trainings. They even have it online. This is a good thing because we can use this education to have a better career here.”
  3. You need to adapt. “Adapting is hard. It takes years and for me I’m still adapting. But we need to continue adapting and learning.”

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