Why We Exist
My name is Dewan and I was quite an accomplished man before I moved to Canada in 2014. I take pride in my previous career as a United Nations employee and enjoyed frequent international travels. After my retirement, all I aspired for was to reunite with my children in Calgary. Moving to Canada was a life-changing moment for me. Having been a resident of a capital city with over 8.5 million people and warm sunny climate, coming to Calgary was a big change. I never realized how difficult it is for older adults like me to live and settle in Canada
I was very lonely at first, especially because I had to be on my own most of the time when my children had to work. I missed my relatives, friends, my own home, and my country of birth. So I decided to go out and look for new friends. I met Bangladeshi older adults who, like me, were experiencing similar difficulties connecting with people of their own age group. One day, I met a Bangla teacher who connected me to Ethno-Cultural Council of Calgary (ECCC), an organization that provides leadership training to immigrants and refugees. What caught my interest was their training program that provides practical tools, skills, information and contacts that I can use to help me help others. I loved the fact that the training ends with an action plan that I can 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 that I could, learned about services available, improved my communication skills, and gained 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 at ECCC 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 ECCC 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 to those who have to offer as well as to those in need.
Participating in ECCC’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.