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Liberians in Hamilton Call for Peace and Unity ...Continued from page 1

and maimed for life. Many Liberians re-

siding in Hamilton and surrounding areas attended the event. Gracing the occasion were also Dr. Gary Warner who helped to organize the event, and Dave from Amnesty International who was the project co-ordinator. The president of Liberians in Hamilton, Mr. Rosler Wleh was on hand to share the activities of the association with invitees. Mr Henry Cooper on giving the final remarks called all Liberians in Hamilton and other surrounding areas to unite and emulate the examples set by the three ex-soldiers who united for a cause they

30,000 of all the fighting forces. The majority of women were forced to participate although it is also estimated that significantly more women opted to participate in the second conflict than in the first. They chose to take up arms to protect themselves from sexual violence, to avenge the death of family members, because of peer pressure, for material gain, and for survival. Women played roles as commanders, porters, spies, sex slaves, cooks and mothers. The consequences of the violence and human rights abuses perpetrated against women and girls during the conflict are devastating. Many continue to suffer both

result of rape. Many are uneducated, jobless, with few skills and dependent on friends for accommodation. Girls, especially young mothers without any assistance, are particularly vulnerable. A greater understanding of this context is needed to ensure that disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration (DDRR) and other post-conflict programmes in Liberia succeed in helping women and girls become productive

Dr. Warner (left) and Mr. Cooper

Liberian nationals in Hamilton

physically and mentally from the harsh and inhumane treatment they endured during the war. Few have access to appropriate medical care particularly where long-term care is required. WAFF and GAFF face significant discrimination and may also carry their own burden of shame for having played roles or carried out acts that are seen as unacceptable for women by their society. Often widowed or abandoned, they are alone to shoulder overwhelming conditions and responsibilities, and with little help to ease the burden, they have full responsibility for their children, some having had children as the

Guests with some Liberian nationals in Hamilton

see favourable for nation building. Below is an excerpt from Amnesty International regarding the Liberian war experiences and issues presently dodgging the country as it goes through reconstruction and re-building of all parties involved in the conflict. Read on. Liberia experienced conflict between 1989 and 1997 and again between 1999 and 2003. Estimates of women associated with fighting forces (WAFF) and girls associated with the fighting forces (GAFF) were in the range of 30-40 per cent of all fighting forces or approximately 25,000-

My Canadian Experience Edgar Saenz’s Story Ten months ago, I came to Canada from Columbia with my wife and a daughter as a refugee claimant. I was an accountant in Bogotá Columbia for many years. I have had all kinds of experiences since being in Canada. My family came during the fall season last year, it was very beautiful and nice weather, but we had bitter experiences looking for accommodation. Since I barely spoke fluent English and phone conversation was impracticable, I had to walk from street to street looking for vacant houses and apartments to rent. I even walked through the snow covered streets, fell and rose several times that I got frost bite in my legs and hands. Life was very difficult for me those early days in Hamilton. Now I have an accommodation and is concentrating my energy learning English in St. Charles Adult school. I am now in the 5th level and have an ability to write and to read English language. Through St. Charles, I became involved with HCCI Community Mobilization Team Program. I attended it for four months and graduated with a certificate. Through St. Charles again, I have met many people from around the world who came to Canada to live better lives. My training in community mobilization has made me a change agent. I have the

skills and knowledge to integrate better into the Canadian society. I signed up for the HCCI housing help committee to help both newcomers and other poor people in terms of getting housing. I consider myself a newcomer but, there are new people that came after me. These are the individuals I help through sharing information about the location of important places like the food banks, shelters; subsidize housing/ apartment, schools, churches, etc. I also volunteer my time to organise events, especially sports events. There are a lot of poor people in Hamilton, and helping the children get active in sports will help shape the future of these children, so I volunteer to affect positive changes in the young ones. Without the Community Mobilization Program (CMT), I would have been isolated, just going to St. Charles and coming back home. Now, I use my time to help others. Thanks to the CMT program. My goal for the future is to improve my English language skills. This will help me get the CMA licence to work as an accountant in Canada. That apart, I like helping people especially newcomers like me. Like Christ said “I did not come to be served, but to serve’’ ■

members of their society. In 2003, following the end of the conflict, a DDRR programme began. Officially, by the time the disarmament and demobilization phase had ended in late 2004, more than 103,000 ex-combatants, significantly more than the 38,000 originally planned for, had been disarmed and demobilized, of these approximately 22,000 were women and 2,740, girls. Although this number is high compared to other DDRR programmes, it is believed to represent only a fraction of the total number of women and girls that participated in the conflict.

Mr. Rosler Wleh President of Liberians in Hamilton

Liberia where economic and social structures are in ruins. While DDRR programmes are not designed to rebuild Liberia, but if done well they will provide an opportunity for at least a segment of the population to acquire skills and have options for reintegration. If the programs are not done well, as in the case of Liberia, there could be serious implications for Liberian society as a whole, with the threat of greater social problems and a possible return to conflict.

■ By Nica Browns (Taken from: www.amnesty.org)

Amnesty International fully recognizes the challenging post war environment in

A Refugee’s involvement in community mobilization The dream of every new comer and refugee to Canada is that of a better life. So was Edgar’s when he left the shores of El-Salvador. Edgar came to Canada in August of 2007 as a refugee, with his wife and 4 children. His background was in Engineering where he has 15 years experience. Edgar’s life experience is just like most refugees and immigrants who left established careers back home to start from scratch in Canada. Not speaking the English language fluently has been one of the most frustrating aspects of his integration into the Canadian society. Another is not finding a job, any meaningful job to adequately cater for his family needs. That and other little frustrations he faces each day in the quest to integrate into the Canadian society makes Edgar’s story similar to other new comers here. However, Edgar is not one that shies away from community engagements and civic responsibilities. Despite his limited English language skills, Edgar jumped on board with Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion (HCCI), to become trained in the Community Mobilization Training Program. HCCI’s Community Mobilization teams ensure ordinary citizens are engaged in community political, social, civic, volunteer, and other public affairs. Edgar is a recent graduate of the Mobilization training, having heard about the program from St. Charles school w w w.thevoiceindiasp ora.com

where he takes English classes. Edgar proudly shares the importance and the need of community involvement with whoever cares to listen. To him, “Is either one gets involved with the community, or one lives in isolation” Edgar volunteers with HCCI and other organizations to ensure smooth integration of other new comers in Hamilton. He readily volunteers his time to train future community mobilization members. To Edgar, the training he received from HCCI has helped broaden his knowledge about his civic rights and responsibilities. He noted that before taking part in the community mobilization program, he was not aware of the Canadian governmental structures; legal systems, and civic obligations. His advice to new comers and others alike is to get involve in community affairs and contribute valuable time to any worthy cause that would benefit people irrespective of who they are. Edgar looks forward to learning the English language fluently in order to get back to his field of engineering. For Edgar, he could not wait to get back to his field, after all, work and hard work is what he has been doing all his life. ■ Aug-Sep 2008 • Vol 1 • Issue 10-11



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Alberta Welcomes Immi grants Fast-No Job Required August-S e p te m b e r 2 0 0 8 • Vo l u m e 1 • I s s u e 1 0 - 1 1 • w w w. t h e vo ice...