09 Oct 2020

A Thanksgiving story

The ANC’s Director of Language Services, Jim Murphy, shares a story of sharing and hope for Thanksgiving 2020.

Four years ago when he arrived in Canada, Emad Nahhat did not speak a single word of English.

On September 27, a knock came on the office door at the ESL School. It was Emad, communicating with total clarity..

“Teacher,” he said,” I have vegetables; many vegetables to give.” (The clients call all instructors at the school “teacher.”)

He showed me 35 to 40 bags of various veggies: potatoes, carrots, cabbage, beet.

“Teacher,” he continued, “I also have more Zucchini. I bring to school for the people.”

As the bountiful season of Thanksgiving quickly approaches, we are reminded of the importance of sharing with those who may be lacking the basic necessities: food, shelter and clothing. People who arrive as refugees, in particular, face daily survival challenges as they adapt to life in a new country, attempting to fit in

Two men standing in a farm field of vegetables.
Emad Nahhat and Emaad Al Ktifan worked tirelessly this summer so local immigrant families could have vegetables this fall.

and provide for their families. Many are further challenged by issues of physical and mental health, lack of education, language barriers and employability, but still consider life here better than the one left behind in countries where poverty, war and the herding of humans into refugee camps continues to this day.

But sometimes it is the efforts of the few that make the difference. Emad and Emaad Al Ktifan arrived in St. John’s as refugees from Syria and this summer took it upon themselves to cultivate a small piece of land on Mount Scio Road owned by Sisters of Mercy. In their home country, Emad and Emaad were farmers, cultivating and growing crops not too different from what we grow here: sweet beets, cabbage, potatoes and tomatoes. Similar to other Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, they are people who understand the importance of food in the survival equation and, like the original inhabitants and earlier settlers, they know how to work with nature to produce food.

COVID-19 changed everything – even farming

Normally, the piece of land on Mount Scio Road is cultivated in partnership with the Association for New Canadians (ANC). Many immigrant clients have participated in the activity and reaped the benefits of the food grown via a shared approach to maintaining the plots. However, this year, with the advent of COVID-19, rules about shared spaces and equipment made it seem that no food would be grown on the land this year.

But this was not how things turned out. Throughout the spring and summer, Emad and Emaad turned the ground by hand, worked the soil, created the rows and sowed the seeds – seeds that would sprout and grow to become the harvest they so unselfishly shared with clients of the ANC.

We are so proud of these new Canadians, who give so unselfishly of their time and energy, so that they can give back to the community and to the people who so desperately need support as they navigate their way in a new country.

Their ability to work the land and to willingly share with their neighbours shows us they are, indeed, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. We are thankful they have come here to build their new lives.

Happy Thanksgiving to clients, staff, friends, and supporters of the ANC!