Faridah Nankya and her three daughters are forever grateful to become Canadian citizens.
Faridah and her daughters Nayla, 16, Niesha, 14, and Nessa, 6, who live in Chemainus, officially took the oath of citizenship last Thursday during a Zoom ceremony.
“I’m lucky to be part of this community and to have good neighbours,” said Faridah. “I have been touched by each of the Chemainus organizations. I am very grateful to all of them.
Faridah was born in Kampala, Uganda. She worked for a British security printing company for 16 years and all of her children were born in Uganda.
Faridah met her future husband, Alan McCutcheon, originally from Ontario, during a trip to London.
“When we met, he came to visit me in Uganda,” she said. “He always stayed six months there, six months here.”
Besides the conditions at home, it was simply time for Faridah to leave the country and live with McCutcheon as a family rather than traveling every six months, which proved stressful.
McCutcheon had lived in Qualicum, Victoria, Nanaimo and Chemainus before, so he knew the island would be a good place to move.
The family arrived in Canada at the end of April 2017 and moved into a house purchased in October in Chemainus. “When I came, of course it was with young children, it was difficult,” said Faridah.
She had enrolled at the UBC Sauder School of Business, but was unable to complete her classes after McCutcheon’s death in October 2018.
“I put everything on hold,” Faridah explained. “Now I am a single mother. I had to move on.
A supportive community and friends helped Faridah and the girls through a difficult time.
“When I arrived, I started volunteering at the Neighborhood House,” Faridah noted. “That’s how I got to know people.
“I also want to thank my husband’s friends and family, near and far. Their words of encouragement always resonate in mind.
Faridah found a job as a cleaner through the Chemainus Shoutouts Facebook page and now serves many clients.
“I have amazing people,” she enthused. “They carried me around and made good friends. They are listeners.
Faridah eventually wants to go back to school, but for now, she’s embracing everything about her adopted country. The citizenship program was very rewarding.
“I read the material, it was very touching,” Faridah said. “I love this country. I enjoy it so much. You try to live up to the standards of those who have been here before you.
The family were among 48 people representing 22 different countries to take the oath and sing the national anthem during the Zoom session.
“This is another milestone in my life and my family,” Faridah said. “I am very privileged to be in a safe country where I feel safe.”
The two oldest daughters attend Chemainus Secondary School and the youngest attends Chemainus Community Elementary School.
“I’m grateful,” said Nayla, who is in grade 11 and also works part-time as a cashier at the 49th Parallel Grocery Store in Chemainus Village Square.
“It’s very different in terms of school and country, but it’s going well,” she added.
Nayla loves chemistry and plans to go to college after high school. She plans to study to become a pediatric nurse.
Faridah hopes to continue building the best life possible for her family, and the citizenship ceremony marks an important milestone.
“I’m ready to carry the flag, I can’t wait to do my best,” she said.
But there’s so much more going on here that drives her to work hard after losing her husband.
Faridah cited the support of the church community of all faiths as instrumental and even a “stone angel” as she calls an anonymous person providing inspiration secured by a stone.
“Someone over there always came to my door and left some really good notes there, and an envelope with money in it,” she pointed out. “If they read the newspaper, I am very grateful to them.
“At the height of COVID, this person came three times. They came every Christmas and Easter. The angels are there, they are great people.