By Lucy Slavianska
Being a Canadian citizen feels so great,” says Nargas Ghafori, who came to Canada from Afghanistan in 2007 to join her husband. “I feel like a free person now. I am so proud!”
Nargas’s first year in Canada, however, was challenging. “When I first came here, I felt like I was out of the Earth,” she says. “Everything looked to me so strange; I was out of the community, everything was so distant and I felt all alone.”
Things changed when Nargas started English classes at the Mennonite New Life Centre. “LINC [Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada] helped me become familiar with my new environment, meet people and make friends – so loved it,” she says. “These classes gather people from different countries and different backgrounds. We communicated with each other, shared experiences and learned a lot. And it was a really good thing that we didn’t know each other’s languages, so we had to speak in English – this surely helped us improve our language skills.”
Thanks to the LINC classes, Nargas overcame her fear of being misunderstood in English and felt more relaxed. Now, she speaks the language fluently.
Learning English helped Nargas not only to adapt to her new country, but also to prepare and pass the Canadian citizenship test. The Mennonite New Life Centre offered citizenship classes and also provided Nargas with individual assistance during her application process.
“I was so much looking forward to applying for Canadian citizenship”, Nargas says, “that I didn’t visit my country and my family for four long years – because I didn’t want to miss a single day from the four years stay in Canada required for the citizenship application. And only when I got my Canadian passport, I visited my family again – as a Canadian.”
Becoming a Canadian citizen made Nargas more confident. “Before, when I was just an immigrant,” she explains, “I had a feeling inside: ‘I am not a Canadian citizen, and I was very insecure – even when shopping in a store – because I didn’t know what was right and what was wrong in this country and I was afraid of making a mistake.
When I became a citizen, I became aware of what my rights and responsibilities are. Now, as I have the same rights and responsibilities as any other Canadian, I feel so strong.”
In Canada, Nargas has the opportunity to study and fulfill her dream of becoming a nurse.
In Afghanistan,” she explains, “a woman can get education, but safety is a big issue – people are afraid of going out, of being involved in community. This deprives them of the opportunities to do so many things they wish to do. So in Canada I hope to make my dreams reality.”
“Of course, I miss Afghanistan,” Nargas says, “because my family is still there and I feel very sad. I love Afghanistan, but now I am Canadian and I love both countries – truly. But I feel more comfortable, freer and happier in Canada.”