35 Journeys

About the 35 Journeys Campaign - Celebrating Refugees and Immigrants

We have been asking individuals who once came to Canada as refugees or immigrants to share the story of their journeys with us and make a special donation to the CCR to contribute to ensuring that the refugees and immigrants of tomorrow are secure and able to flourish. We hope to be able to share 35 stories.

Below you can read the stories and reflections of these donors. We thank these individuals for their support and generosity.

If you are interested in becoming a donor and sharing your story, please contact us at donation@ccrweb.ca or 514-277-7223.


Martha Kuwee Kumsa

I came to Canada with my three teenaged children in September 1991 as a refugee under the Women at Risk program. I was a journalist in Ethiopia when I was arrested by the military regime of Mengistu Haile-Mariam. I fled after ten years of imprisonment and torture. Amnesty International, PEN International, PEN Canada, and Working Group on Refugee Resettlement were instrumental in facilitating my release from prison and my resettlement in Canada. The Refugee Sponsorship Committee of Timothy Eaton Memorial Church sponsored my family. They looked after us not only by attending to our daily practical needs, but also by nurturing us with deeply compassionate care. The Canadian Council for Refugees supported us in our settlement process.

Arriving in Canada in the midst of a recession and finding meaningful employment very hard, I struggled with dire financial difficulties. Life was harder in other ways. I was a single mother in a new culture with the teenaged children I had not raised as a parent. Despite these challenges, however, I took student loans to go back to school while piecing together several part time jobs to make ends meet. I completed my bachelor, masters, and doctoral degrees in ten years. I am now a professor at the Faculty of Social Work, Wilfrid Laurier University where I have been teaching for twelve years. While I’m still unable to reunite with my husband, my children are all university graduates. We are all meaningfully employed and contributing to society. 


Arben Popaj 

I came to Canada in 2004 as a refugee claimant from Albania.  Initially, just like many refugees, I have had a hard time adjusting to Canadian life. Homesickness was one of the key factors, especially when I did not know anyone. I worked extremely hard to become a successful Canadian citizen and to adapt and integrate to the Canadian life.

Initially, I was underemployed and working minimum wage at a greenhouse. I worked on a tomato field greenhouse, however with hard work and dedication I eventually started my own painting business in Edmonton. With this new venture I was able to support myself and my family. As time progressed, my painting business started to pick up then I started thinking about expanding my painting business and I was able to hire new employees. Now I feel like I belong to the Canadian society and I feel at home as well.

I am married and I have my two beautiful daughters. My wife and I support them and want to educate them and keep them in a safe environment. As an Albanian, I feel privileged to come to this land of opportunity and become a successful and productive Canadian citizen.