MCRC - 30 Years of Fostering New Beginnings

Margaret Chisholm Resettlement Centre

Sometimes You Cry Together; Sometimes You Laugh Together

- Bindu Narula

The other day, I was leaving for home, and it was very windy outside.

All the kids (at MCRC) ran out because the chairs started to tumble. They were pulling the chairs back in.

I stopped and watched. Subsequently, it started to rain hard.

Then, I saw a Syrian teenager from the group prompting all the kids to come in. They were Rohingya kids, Eritrean kids, and the Syrian kids. He collected the chairs and took all the kids inside. He was taking care of them.

And I thought, “Yeah, that’s what it’s all about. Because when you’re in this house, we’re all one family, and we all have to take care of each other.”

And this is what it is. This is their first home.

This is a very special place. I always say it is a privilege for us to work in the place where refugees make their first home. It is their home first, our workplace later.

We need to be cognizant that for these people who come here, this is the first stability they have had in many, many, many years. Making them feel welcome in their home is our first job.

After that, everything becomes easy. Once they feel welcome and build that trust, they are open to being guided, to learning, and to becoming exemplary citizens of Canada, of Calgary.

There are a lot of anxieties and fears that come to the forefront when you are here. There is excitement, but then you’re also worried about what happens next.

“I don’t speak the language, I don’t have money, I don’t know anything about the city. I’ve left my family behind, my culture, my language, my food,”


And all those layers of feelings are here. Sometimes you cry together, sometimes you laugh together, sometimes you sing together and dance together.

I cannot count how many times I have cried with the clients.

Listening to them is really important to understanding where they are at. When you don’t speak the same language as somebody, you only have a few ways to communicate. Your eyes, your facial expressions, and your body language show empathy and compassion when sometimes your words can’t.

Relaying that message becomes important at that time. If you start with compassion and empathy, the client feels heard. Sometimes, they have never been heard at all.

They won’t remember the orientations or the food they ate on a certain day. They’ll remember that human interaction and engagement and the fact that they were treated with respect, dignity and love.

I see the kids playing outside together—our African kids, the Syrian kids, the Rohingya kids—they don’t see colour, they don’t see anything; they’re just playing.

That makes me come back to work the next day!

Bindu Narula is Director of Resettlement & Integration Services at CCIS. Her office is based in MCRC.


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