Newcomer Story: Jihad Laguerbia

Jihad Boutaleb, her husband, and two kids

Jihad captions this photo “Happy family”. The Boutalebs posing in front of the billboard declaring Winnipeg as the Centre of Canada. Centre of Canada Park in Tache, Manitoba.

“My first advice to newcomers is to stop overthinking,” Jihad said. “I worried a lot (when we arrived in Canada). I always thought about the future, especially about my children. When we arrived, we didn’t speak English. So I thought, how would my children integrate? How would they accept this culture that is so different from back home?”

“After a while, my children shocked me. I was pleasantly shocked, of course. They learned English so fast! They quickly made friends. They also liked going to school because their teachers gave them support,” Jihad said.

Canada, the land of opportunity

As a mom to two young boys, it was only natural for Jihad to worry about them. In fact, securing their future was the couple’s main purpose for moving to Canada.

Jihad shares: “I believe that everyone deserves the best life. Algeria was getting worse so we moved for my children. Canada is a land of opportunity. I would like for us, and then later on my children, to have good careers.” So despite a few misgivings, the Boutaleb family (Boutaleb is her husband’s last name) moved in September of 2022 from Algeria.

“We had a lot of challenges when we moved to Manitoba. It was a hard decision because you would decide to restart your life. Canada is completely different from Algeria. It’s a different culture, weather… but the hardest challenge was to be separated from your family, your parents, when you leave your home. It was a very hard decision,” she said.

Facing newcomer challenges

Among the first challenges Jihad faced head on was learning English. Despite learning a bit of English in college, she spoke mainly Arabic and a little French. Seeing her kids thrive in school, Jihad knew that she would benefit from learning English herself.

She immediately looked for language training opportunities which led her to WELARC. There, she took a language test and enrolled at MOSAIC. She was waitlisted, but while at WELARC, she also learned about English Online (EO). Jihad decided to enroll in LINC Home Study with EO in July last year. Aside from attending LINC, she also attends drop-in sessions in her free time. To practice what she learns from the classes, she actively joins EO’s online contests. In fact, she has been a consistent winner in our Language Contest and Winter Wordsmith Challenge, two contests that test EO learners’ skills in writing sentences and their knowledge of Canadian idioms. This is amazing considering she had almost zero English when she started learning with EO in July!

“I’m very proud to be a part of the English Online Community!” Jihad shares. “I have several reasons why I like learning here. The first reason is that I don’t spend money, EO is free. I also saves time, and I can take care of my family and study because it’s online. Also, I meet lovely teachers like Blaine, Pam, Lori, Nastashya, and Alexis.”

“The EO Community makes me more confident. The teachers always encourage us. They always say to me ‘don’t be shy’. When I had just arrived in Canada, I couldn’t speak English at all!” Jihad said.

Manitoba is my second home

Jihad goes on to say that despite the challenges of being a newcomer, she is happy to be in Manitoba. She points to our wonderful lakes and parks, the lower rent compared to other Canadian provinces, and supports like Rent-Assist and the Canada Child Benefit, as the reasons why she is happy to be here. But most of all, she likes that Manitobans are kind, polite, and have a ready smile. Jihad shares that when she underwent surgery in August, she was so thankful that health care workers treated her well during a vulnerable time. “The nurses and the doctors treated me with kindness. They respected me, my religion, and my thoughts. I am so grateful for that!” Jihad said.

Having plenty of opportunity to build her skills is another thing that she appreciates about Canada. She looks to a time when her kids are old enough for her to be able to go back to school and work on a career. “Right now I’m developing my skills, firstly my English language. After that I would like a suitable job. Honestly, I like education. I like children,” Jihad said, her eyes lighting up when I mentioned that she could become a teacher.

She added, “I consider MB as my second home. I think we’ll stay here for a long time. Canada is a land of opportunities. You can develop and build your skills. You can also be a good citizen here. And when you develop your skills, especially the English language, you can succeed.”