Immigrating: Need Help? Give Help!

By Sabine Ehgoetz

If you are a Canadian newcomer as well as a parent, you may feel you need some help getting off to a good start here and planning your children’s future. Even if you are financially secure, there are important issues to sort out when venturing into your new life: daycare and school choices; babysitters; extracurricular activities; health related questions; you name it. Fact is, everybody needs a support system and a source of information when it comes to the most precious people in our lives, no matter where you are in the world.

Of course, I felt the same when I became a mother. Although I had been in Canada for a few years prior and started to find my way around, I was thrown into a fairly uncommon situation not many of my friends either here or at home could help me with or even relate to. I was expecting twins and scared about the pregnancy, the monetary impact, and the challenge of taking care of two babies at once without my family close by. I did what felt natural – I looked for other parents who had gone through this experience, and I found a not-for-profit organization that not only got me through the rough times, but changed my entire life in unexpected ways.

You see, the funny thing with charitable and volunteer organization is this: once you receive advice and support from them, you feel the immediate urge to give back, to pay it forward, to do good as well. It so happens, when you start to give of your own time and dedicate your efforts, you end up on the receiving end again.

Multiple Births Canada (which has regional chapters all across the country) was the place for me to go, to talk to other parents with twins, triplets or more. This helped me find solutions for feeding problems and sleep deprivation as well as general mental support. When I had made it through the rough first nine months with the babies and heard the organization was looking for an editor for their national magazine, I jumped to the cause. I was still on maternity leave at that time but felt I wanted to slowly venture back into my work-life. What better way than working on the subjects I felt most compassionate about as a new mom!

What followed was a year I will never forget and that enriched my life in so many ways. I met wonderful people who were there for me through thick and thin (good and bad). I felt I was part of a community and of something profoundly good. We all worked for free, but money wasn’t what was driving and uniting us. It was that wish to pay it forward and to make a difference. If I can pinpoint a moment during my time here in Canada when I ultimately started to feel a sense of belonging, it was during my time with MBC. I was given so much by them, but far more important to me was that I was able to give back on my part.

Living in Canada, there are numerous organizations for parents where you can find help at no or very little cost. Did you know there are actually non-profit daycare centres all over the country (see story page 16)? Numerous websites like Canadianparents.com or YummyMummyClub.ca are accessible for free and provide you with lots of valuable insight on raising your children. Governmental initiatives like Children’s Aid Services, Family Services or Early Years Centres provide you with advice and support under even the most difficult circumstances. At the same time, don’t forget that most these organizations can only exist because of volunteer workers and they are usually always in need of dedicated people to help, to give and to make a difference. You are looking for support? My advice: become a volunteer yourself, may it be at your kids’ school, a help-centre or a non-profit organization, and you will receive back much more than you have ever bargained for!