Peterborough’s Newest Canadian Citizens remind us of the Power of Welcome

This week was a very special one for the New Canadians Centre and Peterborough’s newest Canadian Citizens.

Almost four years ago, Husam Eshhadeh, his wife Noura and daughter Bayan arrived in Canada as the first Government-Assisted Refugees to be welcomed in Peterborough. This week, Husam and Bayan became Canadian Citizens. In the presence of their immediate family, caseworker, and volunteer supporter, Husam and Bayan took the oath in English and French during the virtual ceremony.

Salwa Mirgani, Transition Settlement Worker at the NCC and the Eshhadeh family’s Case Worker reflects, “This family really deserves it. They have worked hard, building a new life from scratch in Peterborough where they feel safe and part of the community. They hold a special place in my heart as the first family to arrive and the first one I supported as a Caseworker at the NCC.” 

Arriving in Peterborough in 2016 from Syria by way of Turkey, the family spoke very little English. They embraced every opportunity that has come their way, from English language classes to cultural and social groups, and even taekwondo for little Bayan.

The Eshhadeh family reminds us of how far we’ve come as a community in welcoming Syrian refugees in Peterborough. Their arrival in Canada came on the heels of tremendous community-wide support that led to the NCC becoming designated by the federal government as a Welcome Centre for government-assisted refugees.. Since 2016, close to 400 individuals from 80+ families have arrived in Peterborough through this program and are building their lives here.

Each of these families has been supported by over 500 volunteers on Volunteer Support Teams who work with families during their first year in Canada. From accompanying new arrivals to important appointments to taking them around town and getting settled, to simply being a friend, these volunteers exemplify what it means to welcome. And even four years after the Eshhadeh family arrived, they still remain close to their Volunteer Support Team – fittingly named Team Awesome. So much so that one member from the team, Winston is now a close family friend and was present for the Citizenship Ceremony. Volunteer teams like Team Awesome and families like the Eshhadehs illustrate the power of welcome and friendship in building bridges that transcend language and culture.

(Re)Settlement work can often be very challenging, and there is never a dull moment. Seeing the smiling faces full of pride and happiness on clients like the Eshhadehs serves as a reminder of the value and importance of this work. It provides safety, connection, opportunity, peace of mind, and belonging. Those are priceless and irreplaceable. Thank you, Peterborough for standing by newcomers, ensuring they know they are welcome and belong here.

Warm congratulations and well wishes to the Eshhadeh family!