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Jebunnessa Chapola
Finding Support in the Bengali Community

Time 0:02:03


I think whenever you meet your friends or people from your own community the first thing is that you will be relaxed, relaxed in a sense that very quickly you can exchange some informations [sic] of the city and also you will get some mental support. That’s very important for any migrant.

And if you do not receive this kind of mental support—like I can remember when—right after moving into Toronto my daughter got sick and that time our health card—health card it was not in our hand right. So we were worried where to go, you know how we can see the doctor. And if you see a doctor without your health card it costs a lot. So we got worried and then, Bangladeshi friends they just gave us the information quickly that there are some places that new immigrants can go and see the doctor, and it’ll be free. So I think this is—at that moment it was very important information. Though Google, Internet all are in your hand but sometimes people feel helpless. Right away if you cannot find that information, right.

So this kind of help always you will get from your community people and—and what else? They invite at your home if you’re a newcomer they would say, Please come and join us for a dinner of for a lunch. And from that lunch table and from that dinner table you will get a lot of power to survive in a new society or new culture. And you will feel that, Oh I have someone—someone here in the city, who, if I’m in a problem right away he or she will come besides you. Even if they do not come, but it gives you lot of power.

Jebunnessa Chapola was born in Faridpur, Bangladesh. She completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sociology at the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh. In 2003, Jebunnessa left her home to complete graduate studies in social work in Sweden. After completing her master’s degree she returned to Bangladesh, working in research and with the United Nations helping street youth. In 2005, she left to study gender and development in Norway.

While in Norway, Jebunnessa married a fellow student from Bangladesh. The couple knew their marriage would not be accepted in Bangladesh because they belonged to different faiths. Living there together would be very difficult. In 2006, they applied to immigrate to Canada.

As they waited for their application to be processed, the couple moved to the United States so that Jebunnessa's husband could continue his education. When their Canadian immigration application was approved in 2010, the family packed up their car and moved from New Jersey to Toronto, Ontario. After four months, the family relocated to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where her husband began his doctoral studies. Currently, Jebunnessa works as an activist, singer, radio host and community volunteer. She is currently on the Board of Directors of the International Women of Saskatoon.

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