Faridah Nankya and her three girls are eternally grateful to become Canadian citizens.
Faridah and daughters Nayla, 16, Niesha, 14, and Nessa, 6, who live in Chemainus, officially took their citizenship oaths last Thursday in a Zoom ceremony.
“I’m blessed to be part of this community and having great neighbours,” said Faridah. “I’ve been touched by each and every individual organization in Chemainus. I’m very grateful for all of them.”
Faridah was born in Kampala, Uganda. She worked for a British security printing company for 16 years and all her children were born in Uganda.
Faridah met her eventual husband Alan McCutcheon, who was originally from Ontario, during a trip to London.
“When we met he came and visited me in Uganda,” she said. “He always stayed six months there, six months here.”
Any mention of Uganda brings military dictator Idi Amin to mind for many people, Faridah noted. Besides conditions at home, it was simply time for Faridah to leave the country and live as a family with McCutcheon rather than travelling every six months that turned out to be stressful.
McCutcheon had lived in Qualicum, Victoria, Nanaimo and Chemainus previously so he knew the Island would be a good place for them to relocate.
The family arrived in Canada at the end of April 2017 and moved into a house purchased that October in Chemainus. “When I came it was, of course, with young kids, it was hard,” said Faridah.
She had enrolled in the UBC Sauder School of Business, but was unable to complete her courses after McCutcheon died in October of 2018.
“I put everything on hold,” Faridah explained. “Now, I’m a single mom. I had to move on.”
A supportive community and friends helped Faridah and the girls get through a trying time.
“When I arrived I started volunteering at the Neighbourhood House,” Faridah noted. “That’s how I got to know people.
“I would also like to thank my husband’s friends and family, those near and far. Their words of encouragement always echo in mind.”
Faridah found a house cleaning job through the Chemainus Shoutouts Facebook page and now services many clients.
“I have amazing people,” she enthused. “They carried me on and made good friends. They’re listeners.”
Faridah eventually wants to return to school, but for now she’s embracing everything about her adopted country. The program leading up to citizenship was very gratifying.
“I read the material, it was very touching,” Faridah said. “I love this country. I appreciate it so much. You try to live up to the standards of those that have been here before you.”
The family was part of 48 people representing 22 different countries to take their oaths and sing the national anthem during the Zoom session.
“It’s another step of accomplishment through my life and my family,” said Faridah. “I’m very privileged to be in a safe country where I feel safe.”
The two oldest girls attend Chemainus Secondary School and the youngest is at Chemainus Elementary Community School.
“I’m grateful,” said Nayla, who’s in Grade 11 and also works part-time as a cashier at the 49th Parallel Grocery in Chemainus Village Square.
“It’s a lot different in terms of school and the country, but it’s going good,” she added.
Nayla enjoys chemistry and plans to attend college after high school. She’s considering studies to become a pediatric nurse.
Faridah hopes to continue building the best possible life for her family and the citizenship ceremony marks a significant turning point.
“I’m ready to carry on the flag, looking forward to doing my best,” she said.
But there’s so much more happening here that’s pushing her to work hard after the loss of her husband.
Faridah cited the support of the church community of all faiths as being instrumental and even a ‘Stone Angel’ as she calls an anonymous person providing inspiration secured by a stone.
“Someone out there has always been coming to my door and leaving very good notes there, and an envelope with some money,” she pointed out. “If they read the paper, I’m very grateful.
“During the height of COVID, this person came like three times. They came every Christmas and Easter. The angels are there, they’re wonderful people.”