Fatumo spent most of long life (she is over 80) in her native Somalia. She never had an opportunity to go to school, or even to learn to read or write, but she raised six children.
1991 brought disaster in the form of civil war. Fatumo’s two sons were killed and she fled the country with her daughter and three grandchildren. The family spent sixteen years as refugees in Kenya, before finally being resettled to Canada in 2007.
The family is extremely happy that they finally have a peaceful life. But settling in presents them with many new challenges: bills, a different life style, food that is unfamiliar and language barriers.
Two months after they arrived, each family member received a notice from Citizenship and Immigration Canada stating that they must start repaying their transportation loan. They were stunned because they had not expected that they would be asked for money so soon. They ask: “How can we repay the loan when we do not have a job? The government allocated a little money for us so that we can pay for rent, food, telephone and transportation (bus passes). We cannot see where the money will come from to pay for the transportation loan.”
Fatumo says: “Those who brought me here know what they should do and how we live with the money they provide. Does the government of Canada expect this old refugee woman to repay the loan? How can the government that feeds us with its wheat ask for money from me?”
Fatumo cannot work, walk or see. One day an English-speaking friend was visiting when Fatumo received a call from a man demanding payments on the loan. The family asked the friend to tell the man that Fatumo is fragile, cannot work and cannot repay the money. The man was very aggressive and insisted that they borrowed money from the government and they should pay. He told them he does not want to hear any excuses: he wants money. The family was terrified. Based on their bad experience with government in their home country, Fatumo and her family thought they might be deported by the Canadian government.
From the money earned by two of the family members, they managed to pay the loans for three of the family members. But they still face the remaining balance, the interest, the man on the phone with a bad voice, and the threat that their file will be passed to a collection agency.
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