Our Neighbors: Layla

“… I came to New Brunswick about 4 years and 8 months now, I came with a visiting visa to see my brother… I came from Syria. You might be familiar with what is going on in Syria. So I came thinking that the war would end within a couple of months. I had escaped from where I came because I was an activist there and my name is now on the border so I can’t go back to Syria. I had already sent my daughter before because I was worried about her safety because the threats, they were threatening me with her. My plan was that I would put her through school here, I would leave her here with my brother and go back. My plan did not work. By the time I was supposed to go back, things were still intense so my manager said, “No, you can just stay there for another month.” I stayed for another month. By the time I decided I was going to go back the airport was already hit, there were no flights back to Syria… when the flow of the new refugees started coming, even before that, I started working with the YMCA and the Multicultural council and Multicultural center in Saint John and Fredericton about the settlement of the refugees. I felt I suffered a lot, I didn’t want them to suffer. I wanted to minimize all the hassle they would face and now I was like finally I’m going to see familiar faces, people who were coming from my country. I felt guilty at the time when I came that I left my people behind…. Now I feel like I’ve started having friends, I know I have people that care for me and I have people that I really love here. Being away, you really need to start opening up. It’s part of me and that’s what I tell people now…I closed the door on myself and I just wanted to be isolated; I chose to be isolated. But when I opened the door, people were stretching their hands and arms to me. Now I now I know that I have family because when you are in a different country, you need to build family.”

We live in a richly diverse community, but we sometimes don’t see the unique and beautiful individuals and families who live in Fredericton South. Many members of our community are overlooked, some are invisible, and sometimes they are Othered. In the coming months, I want to introduce you to some of our neighbours. They are us. This summer we are featuring the work of Faces of the Immigration Story, a collaborative effort to weave the experiences of Fredericton’s immigrants into an inspiring tale of their journey into becoming new Canadians.