From the Democratic Republic of Congo to the Yukon

Sylvia and her 3 children were refugees sponsored by Yukon Cares in March 2020. Sylvia was originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and had been living in South Africa

for many years. After over a year in Whitehorse, the family has moved to southern Canada. Michelle Edwards interviewed her on November 7, 2021.

  1. What is better in your life now that you are living in Canada?

The most important thing is safety and security. In Canada, you can walk freely and not fear for your life. When you go out you know that you will come back alive. In South Africa, each time you left your house you said goodbye to your kids and you did not know if you would see them again. There is so much violence in South Africa and people are often killed in the street.

Also, finding work is much easier in Canada and you have the opportunities to pick and find work you would like to do. There are also government agencies that help you find work so you are not on your own. (Sylvia has worked as a pharmacy assistant and is currently working cleaning hotel rooms while she is learning French).

There is also financial assistance available in Canada. If you have lost your job in Canada there is support. In South Africa you are on your own and if not working it can lead to depression, sickness and hopelessness.

I loved my house in Whitehorse. I had a bedroom of my own and a bed to myself. In South Africa the 4 of us shared an old mattress.

  1. How are your children doing in Canada?.

Amazing. Their experiences in South Africa have made them brave and they always had to face new challenges. In Canada they are keen to learn and school is a very friendly environment. They are thriving in school and getting very good marks. The older two are playing basketball after school and also taking advantage of other opportunities. For the youngest, she is in day care while I am at work. This is very challenging for her as previously she was with me all the time.

  1. What are the memories you have of Yukon Cares during your year in Whitehorse?

When we arrived in Whitehorse, it was the most difficult time with Covid and the need for isolation. When we arrived at our new home there were welcome posters for us. They were so beautiful. I had to take a moment to take in this warm welcome.

After we arrived, people started knocking at our door. At first, I thought something bad was going to happen but they were just there to introduce themselves. I was very fearful and started taking knives into my bedroom while sleeping. Over time I realized that Canadians were friendly and they had no intention of harming us.

We experienced so much love from the Settlement Committee members and it helped me to start forgetting the past trauma in our lives. I experienced genuine love for the first time. I have always wanted to be part of a family and I felt that we were. There was so much love I will never forget it. It was something extraordinary. Every time I think of the Yukon, I smile and I thank you for that.

  1. How did you become a refugee?

I was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There was war there since the day I was born and there is still war there today. When fighting erupts, you run and you run. You anticipate that everything will return to normal and you will make your way back home.

When I was about six, the fighting erupted and I ran and I was separated from my whole family. I tried to go to a safe place and I ended up alone in South Africa. On my journey, I would go to the police station but it was often unsafe and there was bombing. Churches were safe shelter. Life is dangerous in South Africa and Africans are killing other Africans. I approached the UNHCR to find us a safe place to go to. I still feel fearful remembering this past and have nightmares.

  1. Anything else you would like to mention?

I would like to thank sponsoring groups like Yukon Cares that help the government support refugees. Refugees leave challenging lives and are able to come to Canada and are given hope. People help refugees and these acts show love and help remove pain. Refugees can move towards forgiveness. Sponsorship is a miracle. Governments that recognize the hardships of refugees abroad and open their doors are wonderful. Thank you from the bottom of my heart