Home sweet home, Canada

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My name is Alain Mpenzi. I was born in Congo in 1999. My family fled their home country in search for peace and reached Malawi. Life was hard then but fortunately my mum had her first-born twins my sister Aline and myself. Even though this was good news it was difficult because of the war.

Upon reaching Malawi, we were taken to a refugee camp, and our life began. Although life was pretty normal it was hard. But at least there was no war. I still recall playing football with my friends and being a newcomer, I had to make friends all over again in order to learn more and to enjoy life while passing the time playing in the sandy soccer fields.

Shortage of food was one of the biggest challenges faced by my family since it was not enough and we were, by then, a fairly big family. We usually ate once in a day for us to have enough to eat at night. In my case, since I was attending school which was provided by UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), I often had to go on an empty stomach. I remember my mum used to advise me to keep on working hard at school hoping someday life would be better. Thus, I grew up with a hardworking spirit, in spite of the hardships we had.

After completing primary and middle school, which I passed with flying colors, I was chosen among the students to go further my education in high school, where I improved my English language. Back in my camp community, we had many people that belonged to different ethnic tribes, which made it a multicultural society. The issue of health was also a challenge since many people struggled to get services. This made me want to become a medical doctor to help the community. The outcome was – after completing my high school, I started volunteering at the hospital.

One fine day as I walked to the hospital, preparing to go volunteering, to my surprise and delight we were called at the UNHCR office and told that we were chosen for resettlement in Canada. After spending fourteen years in a refugee camp, for the first time, I felt a sense of relief and joy.

I have always admired Canada as a country and I did not imagine that my family and I would be given the chance to live in Canada. A couple of months before we departed, Kailee Brennan came into our lives. She spoke to us and told us a lot about Canada and Canadian life. Those conversations helped us and we had some knowledge about where we were headed.

Upon reaching Canada me and my family were thrilled. For the first time, I had my own room since I always had to share with my sisters back in the refugee camp in Malawi. We were welcomed and received by beautiful people with beautiful welcoming smiles on their faces.

In my heart, I felt, I was in paradise. I could see the beauty of nature and the warm hearts of people around this community. Just the other day when was walking along the road, someone greeted me with a smile and we got to know each other.

A society full of opportunities and loving people with good hearts, it’s such a blessing to be here and I am hoping to fulfil my goals and serve the community.

Last but not the least, a big thanks goes to the community of Pictou County for supporting newcomers. Thanks to Trinity United Church for everything. Thanks also to Safe Harbour and Kailee Breanan, Jim Mckenna, Donna Tourneur, Cathy Hanley and not also forgetting Meredith Fraser and Nancy Dicks, the mayor of New Glasgow.

Alain Mpenzi, his four sisters and parents moved to New Glasgow from Malawi in South Africa in August 2019.