Why We Exist
I was an accomplished man before I moved to Canada in 2014. I take pride in my career working for the United Nations. After my retirement, all I wanted was to reunite with my children in Calgary. Moving to Canada was life-changing for me, I got to be with my children but after living for most of my life in a large city with over 8.5 million people and warm sunny climate, coming to Calgary was a big change. I didn’t realize how difficult it is for older adults like me to live and settle in Canada until I experienced it.
I was very lonely at first. I had to be on my own most of the time when my children had to work. I missed everything, my relatives, friends, my own home, and my country of birth.
I knew I had to do something. I had to find new friends. I met Bangladeshi older adults who, like me, were also having a hard time connecting with people of their own age group and feeling lonely and isolated.
One day, I met a Bangla teacher and that connection changed my life. She connected me to Action Dignity, an organization that provides leadership training to immigrants and refugees. What caught my interest was their training program which provides practical tools, skills, information and contacts that I can use to help me and help others. I loved the fact that the training ends with an action plan that I could shape and implement to achieve my goal of helping immigrant and newcomer older adults help themselves through connections.
In between three training sessions that I attended, I went around contacting as many older adults as I could, learning about services available, improving my communication skills, and gaining more confidence in talking to people whom I have never met. I felt good about connecting my contacts to programs and services. I finally started to realize that as I was helping other people, I was also helping myself feel adjusted to life in Canada.
I didn’t want to stop. I attended more training sessions and served as a community connector for older adults. Through the bi-weekly training sessions, I learned about services for older adults as well as provincial and federal benefits and services that I never imagined exist. With more knowledge, I was able to help more people. I also encouraged those from the Bangladeshi community to participate in events, overcome loneliness, and find friendship and support.
With support and encouragement from Action Dignity’s staff, I worked diligently with the Bangladeshi Community Centre to develop a Seniors’ Club which now meets twice a week. The club has been gradually attracting a larger group of older adults at every meeting. The club is not only helping older adults, but also adults who are transitioning to retirement. The club helps people prepare ahead of time for their retirement, which I know will give them a sense of security and a happier life. I am working hard with the Bangladeshi community to promote the club as a safe and welcoming group that provides genuine support.
Participating in Action Dignity’s leadership training program helped me fulfill my desire to support and improve the life of others. I have come to realize that a newcomer retiree like me who started with barely no contacts outside of my family, can make a huge difference in the community. I am so proud to say that I did not only get help for myself, but others too.