My name is Akenga Rehani. I am a student at the University of Ottawa. My roots are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and my feet are coming from those dusty and muddy houses of Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi.
I have no doubts to mention this because that’s where my success and spirit of community development came from.
Together with my mother and my three sisters, life was tough and hopelessness became the ruler of our hearts. We believed Canada was half-heaven and an open gate for my dreams and my family’s. We landed in Canada July 2, 2021.
I found an answer to the problem of why many immigrants find difficulties in their first few months of arriving in Canada. This encouraged me to share my personal story with other immigrants and Canadian citizens on how best they can combat their challenges.
In fact, loneliness, coldness and lack of sufficient food and shelter became some of our challenges.
However, regardless of all these challenges, I was able to find a summer job for myself and continue helping the Ottawa community as follows.
Firstly, by fundraising for kids’ winter coat with the Knights of Columbus at St. Augustine’s Parish.
Also, volunteering at the Shepherds of Good Hope soup kitchen where I am helping the homeless with dishwashing and cleaning the kitchen sometimes.
Furthermore, I never considered myself to be new to Canada by breaking the language barrier and involving myself in extracurricular activities.
I joined the Youth Futures Program which finally helped me to work in the Ottawa Community Housing office as a Maintenance Administrative Student. Indeed hard work pays.
Eventually, I started motivating many people and had a chance to become the Youth Futures 2022 Valedictorian of honour.
I became an Ontario Scholar and won the Director of Education Award for Academic Perseverance and the Ashfield Award for Community Involvement at St. Patrick’s High School.
A few days later, I won the 25th RBC Spirit of the Capital Youth Award in the Category of Strength Through Diversity given by the Youth Ottawa organization.
Joining the Youth Futures Program came as a result of preparing for my future goals and learning more about intercultural relations in a multicultural setting in the Ottawa community.
With the help of the Catholic Centre for Immigrants, I was able to join this program. I never realized there are many job opportunities at the end of the Youth Futures Program. Fortunately, I was excited to hear that my first official job in Canada was to work in the Ottawa Community Housing office.
In the Youth Futures Program, we were fully trained for different employments by learning more about effective communication, teamwork, time management and how the Ontario Safety measures for employees and employers. We were trained on how to work with children (High Five training), Sun sense, Medication Administration workshops, Creative Discipline and Abuse Awareness and Reporting workshops.
This fully prepared us to accomplish our goals and get desired jobs. Many Youth Futures members
worked with the City of Ottawa as camp counsellors, water infrastructure employees and many more. Others worked with the Ottawa Community Housing Corporation’s office as Maintenance Administrative Students.
I am planning to become a doctor (Ph.D.) in Public Administration and get a job in my field of study as I will be helping the Government of Canada with other administration-related research and concerns.
This will make me more active in serving Canadian society. As a new immigrant to Canada, many people have been discouraging me that I will never achieve my goals because I have no one to help me achieve my goals.
However, my short time goal is looking for the opportunity to take even a single picture with the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Justin Trudeau.
This opportunity will motivate Canada’s newcomers to become more active and hopeful in trying to achieve their dreams. To me, meeting the Prime Minister is a higher level that I am hoping will open doors for my projects of mobilizing new immigrants to continue being more active and not to be depressed by their past and sad moments. I hope this will promote lots of initiatives in the city of Ottawa as well as Canada at large.
These projects might include fighting mental health, helping the homeless, organizing inclusive and diverse social events and many more.
All of these are aimed at promoting the wellness and integration of newcomers while improving Canada’s social and economic development through the Catholic Centre for Immigrants (CCI) support.