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Upcoming forum highlights newcomers’ experiences in Canada

It’s not easy to uproot your family and move halfway across the world, to integrate into a new culture.

Charlie Karumi says he’s faced a lot of challenges since coming to the Comox Valley from Kenya nearly two years ago, but he has found the community welcoming.

“I might be Kenyan, but I am becoming Canadian,” he says. “I feel very fortunate to be here, because a lot is being done [to help newcomers]. The country and the community that I am in is actually willing, they are actually putting in the steps to do more, to go even further, and with that intention, it’s a perfect place to be.”

He says the local Immigrant Welcome Centre has been a huge help, along with connecting with other locals who moved here from Kenya. He says locals have been invaluable helping him learn about Canada – for example, that there’s still taxes to pay despite the sticker price of items, where to go for groceries, and how to access support services. But he says it’s also been uplifting to find locals with a common background, to discuss shared experiences and history.

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Karumi is pursuing an acting career, which hasn’t been easy during the ongoing Hollywood writers’ strike. His wife is here with him, and together they are making a new life on Vancouver Island.

Immigrant welcome centres in the Comox Valley and Campbell River are putting on forums in November for newcomers and the public to discuss what supports and services are available.

“There are so many pieces involved in settling in a new country. When you look for a job, is your international education recognized here? Do you want to access English language classes? How will you make friends?” says Julie Keumbehdjian, coordinator of the Welcoming Communities Coalition. “We hope this experience will help local residents and service providers gain better insight to the challenges of being a newcomer in a place where the culture and language may not be familiar, or where your status as a resident is not always certain.”

Campbell River Community Forum

The Campbell River forum takes place Nov. 8 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Robron Centre. Click the link for more details.

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