Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Hear their Stories: Welcoming and Understanding Refugees

By Lamees Al Ethari, PhD, a lecturer in the Department of English Language and Literature.
Watching Syrian refugees arrive in Canada these past few weeks has ignited memories of displacement and migration for me and my family. I am not a refugee. I have not been stranded in UN camps that provided the basic needs for human survival. I have, however, lived through the traumatic experience of war and displacement. I have stood for hours at the borders of neighboring countries and pleaded with officers as they rummaged through my clothes and threatened to send me back on the long, dangerous route to Baghdad that seemed to never end.
As an Iraqi, I lived through both Gulf Wars and was forced in 2006 to find some way out of the country in order to escape the constantly rising violence and instability that plagued Iraq. We left Baghdad with three suitcases of our belongings and a prayer for better days to come. The experiences of trauma and displacement were not issues that we easily overcame or dealt with. At times, I feel that I can still smell the scents of morning as I wake up at my grandfather’s home surrounded by family. At times, I am jolted awake by memories of American troops raiding our streets. I am always burdened by mixed feelings of unquenchable longing for a home that is no longer there and a life that has dissolved in the midst of conflict, fear and hate. 
I do not believe we will ever fully recover from that experience; however, through supporting each other and finding support in the communities that surrounded us, we were able to focus on moving forward and constructing a new sense of belonging and identity here in Canada. We have learned to establish a home and a way of life that integrates our culture and our beliefs with the diverse cultures and beliefs of those around us here in Kitchener-Waterloo.
The excitement and interest surrounding the arrival of Syrian refugees that I have witnessed in the past couple of months is heartwarming. People in our communities are doing their best to support the cause both here and abroad. However, as the excitement recedes, we have to acknowledge some issues when we deal with these families and individuals. While there is no formula to follow when dealing with people in such traumatic situations, we can still keep in mind some of the following points:
  1. First and foremost, remember that these people may have suffered the loss of family members and friends, the loss of traditions and culture, and of course the loss of home. They are struggling with accepting this loss and are most likely traumatized.
  2. The whole concept of a new “home” is in itself traumatizing. Trying to adjust to new weather conditions, new positions in society, and a new sense of identity is not an easy shift. That little hyphen (Arab or Syrian-Canadian) is heavy with issues of confusion, acceptance and belonging.
  3. Although everyone thinks about the topic of language, not many focus on its ability to create a strong sense of isolation. The inability to express certain emotions or certain concepts because they cannot be translated is very difficult. The language barrier plays a major role in leading people to avoid socializing and adjusting.
  4. Canadian and Middle Eastern cultures are different, but that does not mean that these people have been isolated from the world. Arab culture and Arab media have evolved greatly in the past few years and people have come to accept many aspects of Western culture.
  5. That said, however, many families still hold to strict cultural and religious ideologies because they were raised within societies that enforced them. The idea is to accept who they are, not change them.
  6. The process of adjustment will take time. That sense of gratefulness may not easily surface because there is so much to take in during this move to resettle and adjust.
The most important thing is to listen. Each of these individuals is unique and each one of these Syrians has a personal narrative that tells a story of a journey, of loss and of trying to find content within the safe borders of a new home.

On March 15 at the Kitchener Public Library (7–9 pm), Lamees will participate on a Faculty of Arts panel addressing global and local perspectives on the Syrian and other refugee crises.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

How’s it Goin’ @ UW for You? An Event for New Faculty

Starting a new position can be daunting and sometimes even a little lonely. Wouldn’t it be nice to meet and talk to others who are also adjusting to a new life in Waterloo? You could ask them questions like “Where’s the best place to get good Thai food?” or “How did you find the Math and Computing building?” To this end, the Faculty Association would like to invite new faculty to come and share your experiences and travails with each other over refreshments on February 3rd.

Even if you are not that new (or don’t feel new anymore), please come to welcome the newest members of our community. Come enjoy the company. Come to meet new colleagues. Come to eat, drink, and compare notes. Members of the Faculty Association Board of Directors will also be present to answer questions such as “What does AF&T stand for?"

When and where

This will be a double-dip event on Wednesday, February 3 that includes an alcohol-free coffee break in the afternoon, and an alcohol-friendly Happy Hour at the Grad House.

1:30 pm – Coffee Break
Light snacks & beverages will be served in DC1301 beginning at 1:30 pm and ending at about 3:00 pm.

4:30 pm – Happy Hour
Nachos and other pub foods will be provided on the second floor of the Grad House beginning at 4:30 pm and ending at about 6:00 pm. (The Grad House also has a good selection of beer available for purchase – and pop and juice, if that's more your thing).

We all know how busy everyone’s schedule is, so feel free to come late and leave early.


Please RSVP here if possible so that we can determine how much food to arrange.

How to find the events

DC1301 is the glass-walled “fishbowl” lounge just off the main lobby of the Davis Centre.

The Grad House is located at the south end of campus, on the hill between the Dana Porter Library and South Campus Hall.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Fall 2015 Electronic Grade Submission Deadline

By: Sally Gunz, FAUW President

This message is especially for those lucky souls whose exams are sometime between now and the end of 22 December. The Registrar's Office has agreed to extend the time for submission of your final grades until 4:30 pm on Monday, 4 January, which is the first day the University is open. You will get official notification likely Monday. We all know there are a number of irritants around the exam processes. The registrar has agreed that we will work on these in the new year. But in the meantime, this short extension is a small gift for those grading away in the salt mines over the holidays. May it all go smoothly and, more importantly, quickly.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

CAUT Refugee Foundation: Call for Donations

A Syrian family at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, amid a crowd of media and onlookers.
The first Syrian refugee family arriving in Toronto. Photo by Domnic Santiago / Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
CAUT has issued an urgent appeal for donations to the CAUT Refugee Foundation, which has been reactivated in light of the current Syrian refugee crisis and has requested its member associations to send out its call for funds. The Foundation was initially created in the 1970s to offer support to refugees fleeing Vietnam for Canada. The Canadian government has pledged to match dollar-for-dollar every contribution that individual Canadians make to a registered Canadian charity for Syrian refugees until Dec. 31, 2015.

The Foundation is a registered charity with the Canada Revenue Agency, allowing it to issue tax receipts. The Executive Committee is encouraging academic staff associations and their members to donate to the Foundation to support refugee relief and resettlement efforts. Funds collected on behalf of the Foundation will be provided to the Canadian Red Cross. The Red Cross and Red Crescent are supplying food, water and first aid to refugees across Southern Europe and the Middle East.

FAUW has pledged $1000 to the Foundation and would like to encourage our members to consider supporting either the CAUT Refugee Foundation as well, or another charitable organization of their own choosing addressing the challenges of this humanitarian disaster. If you would like to back a campus initiative already underway, you might support a project being spearheaded by two people in Arts, Andrea Charette and Lamees Al-Ethari. They have organized a Relief Kit and Blanket Drive through Mennonite Central Committee and are also encouraging monetary donations to Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support.

Cheques can be made to the order of the CAUT Refugee Foundation and sent to:

CAUT Refugee Foundation
2705 Queensview Drive
Ottawa, Ontario
K2B 8K2

Read more on the CAUT website.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Congratulations Ceiling Breakers!

By: Sally Gunz, FAUW President

Congratulations to all of our Ceiling Breakers as presented in the current UW Magazine. You really do make it easier for the rest of us. Most importantly you make all of us look good. We value and appreciate your contributions to our community.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Thomas King Presents the 2015 Hagey Lecture Tomorrow Night

By: Sally Gunz, FAUW President

Please join us for the Hagey Lecture, Tuesday, November 17, 8 pm Federation Hall. The speaker is the outstanding Canadian author, Thomas King. He will present Love in the Time of Cholera: Canadian Edition. Visit the Hagey Lectures website for more information.

 You may pre-register to ensure a seat. The doors will open at 7.30 pm. We look forward to seeing you there and you are welcome to join us for the reception following the lecture.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Council of Representatives

By: Sally Gunz, FAUW President

We had excellent discussions at the Council of Representatives meetings last Friday (November 6). This is a really important way for the FAUW Board to interact with the faculty community. If your department/school does not have a representative yet, please consider volunteering. We intend to make much more use of this group to get effective input, but for this to work we do need coverage from all units.

The easiest way to find out about this is to visit the FAUW Council of Representatives webpage. Please suggest to your chair/director that you are willing and able to fill this role. S/he will no doubt be pleased to be able to tick this box and we will be very pleased to have you join this group.