Canada 'God bless Canada': Nigerian refugee and her children warmly welcomed in Montreal

14:51  05 january  2018
14:51  05 january  2018 Source:   The Gazette

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Just as December’s icy weather moved into Montreal , so did a Nigerian woman who arrived with nothing but her three children and a glimmer of hope that Canada would accept her refugee claim. Loveth Itohan had never seen snow or experienced such cold

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Just as December’s icy weather moved into Montreal, so did a Nigerian woman who arrived with nothing but her three children and a glimmer of hope that Canada would accept her refugee claim.

Loveth Itohan had never seen snow or experienced such cold, but it wasn’t long before her new neighbours were warming her heart — donating food, bedding, clothing and furniture for her apartment in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, a neighbourhood in Montreal.

“The people here are really good people,” said Itohan as her six-month-old girl slowly nodded off beside her and her two-year-old twin boys played quietly. “They take you as your own. God bless them all for their contributions. For their kindness. For their love. God bless Canada.”

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Itohan came to Canada with dreams of building a better life for herself and her children. She left her husband in Nigeria, landed alone in New York City and, after several days stranded in the Big Apple, she made her way north across the border. She checked in at the YMCA Residence, which supports refugees, but she didn’t stay long.

Itohan had just enough money for an unfurnished apartment in N.D.G. The YMCA put an alert out on social media, asking the public for help.

Help came.

Sara Dubuc, who lives a few blocks away from Itohan, went to Itohan’s apartment that night and found the small family alone in an empty, one-bedroom flat with nothing but an old mattress on the floor.

“After seeing them like that, I decided I had to help them get settled and get acquainted with the neighbourhood,” said Dubuc, who had also been a single mother at one time. “I can only imagine how scary it would be for me to move to another country with my kids and not know anyone.”

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Dubuc brought what blankets and items she could spare, but she knew that wasn’t enough. She took to Facebook and posted about the situation to a local N.D.G. discussion group.

“Within a few hours, there were so many people responding and sending messages that I was a bit overwhelmed by how many people wanted to help,” she said.

People bought goods and groceries and donated clothing, cookware, bedding, snowsuits and more. Dubuc coordinated the donations while working her full-time job and taking care of her own two kids. As soon as her children were in bed, she would pick up and deliver donations to Itohan.

As more volunteers got involved, Dubuc said, “It really became a community effort.”

One of those volunteers was Barbara Sidorowicz. Upon reading Dubuc’s post, she delivered groceries right away.

On seeing the small family huddled in the empty apartment, Sidorowicz said, “I was in tears. I was just blown away. She had nothing. Three kids. How do you survive?”

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But on the drive home, Sidorowicz realized that Itohan might see things differently, and feel lucky to be in Canada, and to have so many people helping.

Sidorowicz went back with her teenage son, bringing books and supplies. Together, they put plastic on the windows to fight off the draft.  Sidorowicz is a single mother with two jobs. Donating and volunteering isn’t something she often has time for, but seeing Itohan’s situation really hit home. She asked, “How could you not help?”

Melissa Reeds, a Montreal West resident, came by to hang up some curtains and help set up the apartment. Reeds, who volunteers when she can, said she had also been a single mother. She related to Itohan’s story and got involved because “I have the time and I want to help.”

Itohan worries her refugee claim could be refused, but she is pushing on, settling into her new home and getting to know her new friends. Though her bed is still just a mattress on the floor and she has no dressers to store the donated clothing, Itohan is thankful that the community has welcomed her so generously. She described Dubuc as her “sister from another mother” and said she now looks forward to the days ahead, knowing she won’t face them alone.

“I have nothing to give them in return, but I ask that God blesses them all,” said Itohan of all those that have helped. “Every day of my life now, I am grateful.”

But help is still needed.

Dubuc said there is still a long list of needed donations, including winter clothing for the six-month-old, a telephone, television, dining room set, sofa, tables and chairs. Dubuc said transporting donated goods has been difficult without a truck or movers to help.

Those interested in donating or helping can contact Dubuc by email: lovethndg@gmail.com.

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