WOW Ambassador: Carol Gervais
Nominator: Maisa Almadi

A Chance for a Better Life

When St. James Anglican Church in Manotick contacted Maisa Almada about sponsorsing her family to come to Canada, she knew it was a unique chance for a better life. Maisi, an Iraqi, her Palestinian husband and five children arrived in Ottawa in October 2018. They had lived as refugees in Indonesia, but now looked forward to a new home. 

“I am very happy and grateful to have this new life,” states Maisa. “I always dreamed of a better future for my family. Thank goodness this church sponsored us. I now know my children will live a good life here in Canada where we are safe.” 

One of the sponsor group’s members, Carol Gervais, became particularly close to the family. “Carol is a very nice, friendly and helpful person,” says Maisa. 

 As the rental occupancy rate is so high in Ottawa, finding suitable housing for the family of seven presented a challenge. “Carol moved out of her home so that we could rent it at an affordable price,” explains Maisa.  

“Ottawa has a housing crisis, so it felt wrong that I was living in a three-bedroom townhouse by myself,” says Carol. “When the challenge of finding accommodation was raised, I went to the refugee sponsorship committee to offer my house and moved into an apartment belonging to my sister.” 

 “She also gave us lots of furniture, toys and books for my children,” adds Maisa. 

For their first six months in the city, Carol showed them around the neighborhood and introduced them to neighbours in Barrhaven. “She brought my children shopping for snowsuits,” explains Maisa. Carol took the family for a memorable outing to the sugar bush, adds Maisa. “She paid for everything, including pancakes and a ride on a horse drawn wagon!” 

“I never imagined I would meet someone like her,” adds Maisa. “She has a big heart and is like my Canadian sister. When I first moved here, I was afraid and had a lot of apprehension about living in a different country and culture, but she helped me to develop a positive outlook.” 

Carol is on the board of Nelson House, a shelter for woman and children fleeing abuse. She’s a retired business analyst who works part-time and enjoys spending time with her five grandchildren.  

“I don’t have the financial resources, but through volunteering I have found another way to help,” says Carol. “I couldn’t imagine being afraid of where my children would live. It’s so important, especially for the two little girls in the Almadi family, to have the opportunity to thrive. It’s been a wonderful experience and there’s been a lot of support from our church.”  

Life is normalizing for the Almadis. One if the sons, Mohammed, is now playing soccer. His father Adel was a soccer player in Iraq. They will be moving to a more permanent house, but know they will remain in contact with Carol. 

“Being involved in a sponsorship group is not just about raising money,” explains Carol. “It’s more about providing moral support, as this family are experiencing culture shock. We turn into lifelong friends.” 

Carol remembers something Barack Obama said when she heard him at a speaking engagement the night before. “He said that everybody deserves a chance to make a life,” says Carol. Through her actions, she has taken those words to heart and done her part in helping a family that just wants that chance to live in happiness and safety.