Rand Amer and her family immigrated to Hamilton, Ontario from Iraq in 2010. So when her grade 7 English teacher assigned the class to write letters to an imaginary Syrian refugee 7th grader arriving in Hamilton, she had a lot to say.
"As a young teenager like me, you might find it dreadful and sad, but moving to another city in another country is actually a great experience," she wrote. "These feelings of sadness and nervousness just teach us to be stronger people."
The letter also reminds her fellow 7th grader about the sacrifices parents make to build a life in a new country. "Try to help them when you can because if you think about it, they just want the best for you, and that is why they brought you here."
Amer's letter earned her an A+. "Rand is a very special girl, and so are her parents," principal Mary Scime of Dalewood Middle School told BuzzFeed Canada.
Amer said she's received lots of positive feedback about the letter. Most important to her is the fact that "different people from different ethnic groups and cultures say that the letter relates to them."
Here's Rand Amer's full letter:
Dear My New Hamiltonian,
Welcome to your new home. As an immigrant, I know how it feels like to try to adjust to a new life with different people, a different language, and in a different country, far away from your homeland. Hopefully and surely, your fellow Canadians, along with their warm Tim Hortons coffee, can help you get used to the life in Hamilton in no time.
To give you an idea of where you will be living for a chapter of your life, Hamilton is a great city, filled with many resources, such as libraries, and communities that will help you learn the English language, introduce you to our annual traditions and cultures (such as the Winter Wander every year in Westdale) and the many recreation centres that will provide you with fun, exciting, and educational extracurricular activities.
Similar to my family, I know that you came to Canada to start a new life, to escape the warfare and conflict in your country. I can assure you that as you start fresh again, you will want to go back "home" at times. Even though some of us (or mostly our parents) might have the feeling of regret from leaving our country behind and want to go back, we have to remember that there is nothing to go back to. We have to remember that these things happen in life just to make us stronger. I am pretty sure that no one in this world has had a perfect life, with a perfect family, and hasn't been heartbroken at least once in their life. As a young teenager like me, you might find it dreadful and sad, but moving to another city in another country is actually a great experience. These feelings of sadness and nervousness just teach us to be stronger people.
I can also assure you that a few people might not accept you, and find the concept of a refugee in their country strange and worrisome. Some people fail to realize that you are trying to escape conflict, and not bring it. Hamilton is a very diverse city, but Canadians who were born here and whose parents were born here might not relate to your experiences with war. In other words, they will give you strange looks, stare at you, and ask you MANY questions …
I am sure that your parents have worked hard to get you to where you are. Therefore, they might be overwhelmed with the whole experience of moving, and are probably going to need help finding a home, finding a job so that they can support you, and finding a suitable school for you and your siblings, if you have any. Try to help them when you can, because if you think about it, they just want the best for you, and that is why they brought you here.
Remember that Hamilton, and Canada in general, is a very diverse city, and that you shouldn't be afraid of being yourself.
At this age, the schools in Hamilton, or really, around Canada, provide you with different sports teams, bands, workshops, and other extracurricular activities that will help you learn, and find your talents, strengths, and weaknesses.
There are many libraries around Hamilton that provide you with the privilege of borrowing books from the library with a library card, but just make sure you return them on time.
There are also recreation centres, where you can sign up for sports, like hockey, in an arena, or different workshops for art, writing, science, etc.
To be honest, your first year in Hamilton will probably be chaos, as your parents try to find a home, a job, and a school for you, and you will have to learn and get used to the culture and language. But keep in mind that something good always comes out from something bad. In other words, you might hate it here at first, but as you start making new friends, you will be glad you came to Hamilton.
Once again, welcome, my neighbour, to your new home.
Dalewood Middle School
Dhuha Al-Sajee is finishing a PhD in medical science at McMaster. This article incorrectly said she is pursuing her master's.
Craig Silverman is a media editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto.
Contact Craig Silverman at email@example.com.
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