Diversity Starts Here

When Milia Aidemouni fled Syria and escaped to Lebanon with her parents in 2013, she never imagined they would end up in Saint John. But after two years of waiting and with little knowledge of their destination, Milia and her family arrived in the Port City on a frigid February day in 2015.

“We just asked to go to a peaceful place and we were brought here. I was shocked with the snow,” Milia explained at the Saint John Regional Y on a hot summer day. The August sun beamed on her face as she relived her story.

Milia remembers the support her family received in this new, strange place. “We got a lot of help, the people that were volunteering did not just help us settle in, but they also helped us learn more about the culture.”

As Milia acquainted herself with this new place, she recalls being fearful. “My fears were fears of the unknown because we didn’t know where we were going. We didn’t know the city or what language we were going to speak.”

A believer of taking action, Milia pushed herself out of her comfort zone and overcame her fears by connecting with her new community. She began volunteering with the Y as an interpreter and became part of a welcome team, which supported new family arrivals. Milia stepped up as a youth leader for the Newcomer Youth Civic Engagement initiative, was involved in extracurricular activities at university and volunteered for summer camps.

Today Milia is taking steps to accomplish her dream of becoming a Doctor.

“When the war happened in Syria, I wanted to help people but could not. Today, I am studying to attend Medical School. I especially want to help children,” she said.

First needing to meet language requirements, Milia completed her ESL course in the summer of 2015 and began her first year at UNB SJ in September.

“School has always been one of those things I fought for. When we were in Syria and the war started I wasn’t able to go to school and missed two years of education. When I came to Saint John and was able to attend school it was like a dream for me. I was so excited!”

Milia explained how university life has served as a strong example for a welcoming diverse community.

“Diversity is not just about having a mix of people; it’s about accepting those people, respecting their differences and welcoming those differences.”

Endless opportunities to shine bright at the Y

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