She was still a teenager and brand new to Canada, when Delveen Al Naamo started volunteering to help other newcomers in London. It was November 2015, and Delveen was a student at Westminster High School, feeling lonely and out of place a month after she’d arrived in Canada. A Yazidi from Iraq, Delveen came to Canada as a refugee, along with her parents and five younger sisters, to escape persecution by Daesh militants. They were safe here, and for that Delveen was grateful, but she was still so lonely and depressed. When the school’s settlement worker asked her to help translate Arabic for some incoming students, she instantly agreed. “You don’t know anybody, you kind of feel like you don’t belong here. . . by helping people I thought maybe I’d get to know some people and make some friends. And it worked.”
Not only did she make friends. She gained strength in knowing she was providing support to people who really needed it.
Delveen continued helping at the school and became known among staff and peers as the go-to student for Arabic translation needs. It felt good, she was making a difference.
She started volunteering at South London Community Centre, then YMCA helping with a informal language practice program called Chit Chat with newcomer teens.
Fast forward three years, and Delveen, now 22, is at Fanshawe College, studying pre-health on her path to becoming a nurse.
She works part time and beyond that, she has continued helping newcomers settle in Canada as a devoted volunteer at London community centres. Her work has been noticed. In 2018, Delveen received the Engaged Refugee Award at London’s Life as a Refugee conference.
Helping others helped her too, she says. If she could give one message to newcomers it would be to reach out and ask for help if they need it.
“One experience can change everything,” she says. “It did for me.”