From struggle to strength: A newcomers journey with MOSAIC Family Centre

February 16, 2024

By: Amir Khan, Communications Generalist – Family Day

Family Day is a statutory holiday and a time for families to get together with their loved ones. Supporting families in their development is a means of building and maintaining a strong, and healthy community in B.C.

When faced with challenging times, Amara (name changed for safety reasons) draws inspiration from her young daughter, who serves as her driving force to persevere. Upon arriving in Canada from Eritrea in 2021 as a government-assisted refugee, she found herself alone with her daughter, navigating a new life in a foreign land. Her husband and mother left Eritrea to temporarily resettle in neighbouring Ethiopia with the hopes of joining her.

As a former Ethiopian territory, Eritrea gained independence in 1993 and had been plagued by geopolitical conflict with its former central government in Addis Ababa. Today, the country continues to struggle, as severe drought, internal repression and prolonged periods of conflict have virtually undermined its agricultural and economic development, forcing thousands of Eritreans to emigrate to neighbouring countries and beyond, according to United Nations estimates as of May 2023.

Amara says her initial days in Canada proved to be arduous for her as she grappled with language barriers and a lack of acquaintances, among other difficulties. The COVID-19 pandemic further intensified her struggles as the world around her remained partially shut due to public health orders But it was during this challenging period that the Immigrant Services Society of BC, a partner in newcomer and refugee settlement, referred her to MOSAIC.

A MOSAIC staff member reached out and directed Amara to the MOSAIC Family Centre, a beacon of support for newcomers helping in parenting, child development, and offering cooking classes and settlement resources. Amara was particularly impressed with the services provided, as well as the welcoming environment for her daughter.

“[Life] was very dark for me before I found the Family Centre,” she recalls.

At the Family Centre, Amara received valuable assistance from the staff who offered classes on parenting, guidance on accessing healthcare resources and support for enhancing her English language skills through Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) classes. She recognizes the pivotal role these services played in her integration into Canadian society and helping to improve her employment prospects.

Looking ahead, Amara says she looks forward to reuniting with her husband and mother in the near future.

The Family Centre has helped nearly 140 families in need of support over 2022 and 2023. However, the centre estimates the numbers are rising each year as natural disasters and conflicts worldwide are forcing more families to leave their homes in search of safety.

The MOSAIC Family Centre is open to families living in Burnaby or New Westminster and those with children 0-6 years of age who have been living in Canada for less than five years. The centre can also provide volunteer resources and referrals to various local support groups, and programs. For more information on the program and its services, click here.