Eman Arnout has come a long way since she arrived in London in 2014. She works a fulfilling job, volunteers with several agencies and her smile comes easy. Still, tears fill her eyes when she recalls the isolation of her first months here as a mother of three who had sacrificed her career for the opportunities Canada could give her family. In those days, while her husband worked and her older boys were in school, Eman and her young daughter would often pass time visiting children’s play areas together. One day, her little girl sat on the ground at a fast food restaurant and started to sob.
“My daughter was isolated at that time, and I was too. I had no friends. I felt all alone. I sat on the ground and started to cry as well,” recalls Eman, who has a PhD in dentistry and has worked as a university professor and researcher in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but did not have Canadian certification to work here when she arrived. “I had sacrificed everything and yet I was just sitting at home, doing everything by myself with no monthly income. I went through a deep, hard depression.”
A year later, Eman met a woman who told her about services for newcomers and also told her something very valuable: “She said the key here is to volunteer,” says Eman.
Since then, Eman has volunteered with many London organizations including Cross Cultural Learner Centre, London Intercommunity Health Centre, the tax clinic and Dentist Outreach Program.
She has also worked as a school settlement worker and is now employed as a research assistant at London Health Science Centre, working with the Muslim Neighbourhood Resource Centre.
Now a permanent resident and eligible for assistance that would help her access Canadian education Eman is deciding whether to return to the academic career she once had or continue with the work she has come to love doing in London.
But one thing she won’t give up is volunteering with organizations that help people, she says.
“I want to help people become involved and avoid isolation,” she says. “I encourage all newcomers to join the stream of community activity.”