From Japan to Halifax, a newcomer’s experience finding new community in Nova Scotia
Halifax has been booming. In the past five years, our city attracted more than 20,000 international newcomers, more than 5,300 in 2019 alone — a record number. But as more and more newcomers bypass Canada’s traditional big-city immigration gateways, mid-sized municipalities like ours need to be prepared.
Mayu, a newcomer from Japan, is one of those thousands of immigrants who now call Halifax home. Her experiences here are proof that so much of our community’s future depends on ensuring that we have the right supports for new Canadians like her to make a home here.
Born and raised in Japan, Mayu arrived in Halifax in 2007 with her Canadian husband and a young family. “I did not know anybody,” she says. “All the time, I felt isolated, and I missed my family and friends. But I pushed myself so it would get better for my kids.”
A chance to make friends
Mayu took her infant (the first of three kids) to the public library, to playgrounds, and eventually to a drop-in playgroup at the United Way-funded Fairview Family Resource Centre (FFRC). As her child began to fit in and make new friends, so did Mayu. “I got to know the people who worked there,” she says, “and I started to feel more comfortable talking to them about what I was thinking, what I was worrying about. Every time I asked for help, the people at the Centre helped me get what I need.”
That’s where Mayu discovered the FFRC’s Zumba classes. She’d never danced before, but discovered “dance is medicine.” With the encouragement of Centre staff, Mayu decided to become a Zumba instructor herself.
She worked hard — participating in classes, paying close attention to musical selection, choreography, and the kind of coaching and support her own instructors used for motivation.
When it came time to begin to teach her own class, she was nervous. “English is not my first language,” she says. “How can I lead these people?”
But her instructors shored up her confidence. Her friends at FFRC helped by giving Mayu a place to rehearse, and a space for her to do her practical exam. Of course, she passed with flying colours.
“I really, really appreciated how much the staff helped me get here.”
Today Mayu has started offering classes, free of charge, at FFRC. It’s her way of saying thank you for the support they offered. Her story is a classic example of how we can make Halifax a more welcoming, supportive, and safer place for newcomers. And, how what goes around comes around.