Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver

Newcomer finds family through Renfrew-Collingwood seniors program

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Last fall (2011), I took a free English as a Second Language (ESL) course at the BC Federation of Labour office up the street from Collingwood Neighbourhood House. We were about 30 students, all immigrants from different parts of the world, including myself from Eritrea (in Africa) and others from Iran, Mexico and South Korea.

Our lessons were twice a week and lots of fun. The most beautiful thing about our course was getting to know each other and helping one another. Most of us were newcomers. At that time I had only been in Canada for four months. I did not know the city well and hardly had any friends. I had a hard time.

I met many friends, like Susan from South Korea, who led me to Collingwood Neighbourhood House (CNH). Soon I began volunteering at CNH with the Community Action for Seniors Independence (CASI) program. I’m so grateful to be part of this organization and I thank my friend Susan for the wonderful introduction. If not for her I wouldn’t know the CASI program and I wouldn’t have been able to meet Cathy, Ann and Ken, Patricia, Dolores and many others. They mean a lot to me.

I’ve been working with the CASI program as a housekeeper for over a year now. I’ve participated in training on how to work with seniors and how to best help them with housekeeping and gardening chores.

I was happy to get started to do something useful in the place I emigrated to. I believed that it would be a positive experience to help the elderly. After all it is like helping my parents whom I left behind to save my life.

My very first job, assigned to me by CASI co-coordinator Melissa Chungfat, was with Ms. Catherine Folkard. She is a very sweet and loving mother, blessed to be alive at 94 years of age.

I have been visiting Cathy once a week for almost a year. I don’t have enough words to describe her generosity and her love. Each week I cannot wait to step through her door and see her. Every visit starts with a hot coffee and cookies are waiting for me on her small table near her sofa, accompanied by her big smile and her sweet words, “Good morning love!” She is an amazing woman and I love her very much.

Before I start my job we spend some time having a conversation, as she wants to make sure that I’m alright, how my week was. It feels as if she is my mom here in Canada.

Not only that, I feel part of her family. I have an excellent connection with her family, they care about me and help me as much as they can. One unforgettable moment of happiness was the day that her daughter Marnie took us to Horseshoe Bay to celebrate my good news from my immigration hearing, after 18 months of waiting for a decision on my refugee status.

Ms. Folkard is a special woman. She is love. I’m pleased to know her and her family. I can tell that they are all the result of a big-hearted and caring mother. I can say much more about this wonderful woman. Just thinking about her fills my heart with joy.

At the beginning of my journey for this service, who would have thought that I would meet so many nice people. Ann and Ken are also part of the Community Action for Seniors Independence (CASI). I visit this family once a week as well. They are very nice people, kind and always smiling. I have created a good relationship with them and always feel welcome.

Other members of CASI include Patricia and Dolores. They both supported me in the times when I was worried about my hearing and my settlement in my new country Canada. I feel overly blessed to be part of program.

I am also very grateful for the warm and affectionate welcome I received from our humble CASI co-coordinators, Kat Cureton and Melissa Chungfat.

Akberet S. Beyene is a housekeeper with the CASI program for seniors.

This article was first published in the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News, December 2012 issue.

Copyright (c) 2014 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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