Soffie’s Story

My friend Soffie Smith was a little girl when she came to Canada. Her parents arrived in Toronto on March 6, 1968, and worked for 9 months to save money so their children could join them. In December, Soffie’s father flew to Guyana and brought her and her two older brothers back to Canada with him. They arrived on Boxing Day. This is the story Soffie posted on Facebook in November, 2015:

So if Ottawa is preparing to receive at most 2000 Syrian refugees, that means that in a population of 900,000, a community of about 450 should be able to invest in the caring of one individual each. That is a good ratio. When my parents immigrated to St. Jacobs over 47 years ago, the village was only about 300 people. We were the only immigrant family for several years. We arrived with no appropriate clothes, shoes etc. We had no idea how to brave the winter. It was the Mennonite community that reached out to us and showed us how to live and eat. Kind people allowed us to rent part of their houses.

Soffie and family winter
The Alli family: Soffie (centre) and her brothers Sheffeel and Bobby,  with their parents, in St. Jacobs

There were three houses where I remember living and when my parents were able to purchase their own house, we still went to those friends’ houses for tea and to celebrate their birthdays and I even remember attending their funerals. I remember calling them aunt and uncle.

There are people everywhere who do not have family near or living. Adopting a family from another country is a wonderful investment. I have so much to be thankful for. Oh and did I mention that my parents brought us out of a country that was in a lot of turmoil politically and socially? So glad I did not have to grow up in fear of someone robbing or killing, of not being able to get enough food or of a corrupt government. No we were not refugees but we were – we are – immigrants.

My mom is a Muslim and understands the traditions of Canada because people invited her to their homes and showed and taught her Canadian culture. My mom never demanded anyone respect the culture that she came from. She is thankful for the life she has here. And when she gets together with her Guyanese friends, she loves to talk about the old days. But she doesn’t live like she is in Guyana. She is Canadian now and helps everyone around her because that is what community does.


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