It was 2007 when Gi Eun brought her two daughters, Crystal and Julia, from Korea to Canada on student visas. Crystal, now 14, explains that the transition was really difficult for her whole family because they simply didn’t know what to expect. It took them a few years to settle into Canadian life and in 2012, Gi Eun learned about Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“I signed my girls up for a mentor because I wanted them to learn about Canadian culture, improve their English, and give them someone else to spend time with” says Gi Eun in Korean while Crystal translates.
Crystal was the first to get matched in 2013. BGCBigs Match Facilitator Amy tells us that the very first match meeting happened in the family’s small home in central Edmonton. It was a low income housing complex and we had a translator come help as Gi Eun’s English was limited.
Over the last three years, Crystal’s matched has thrived. “Crystal is incredibly responsible and always makes sure she can communicate and coordinate outings with her Big Sister,” Amy explains. “She does all the follow up with me over the phone and still translates for her mom.”
“I think I’ve changed a lot,” Crystal tells us. “When I started the program, I didn’t know much about Canada. But now I know more about culture and places and history. My English is better and I’m even doing better in Social Studies.”
Crystal feels connected to her community thanks to her Big Sister. She feels confident that she can confide in her Big about school or anything that she’s worried about. “It’s really good to talk to her. It’s fun and she listens to me and gives me help when I need it. I’ve gotten brighter – as in happier because of having someone to hang out with and talk to.”
In 2015, we were able to also match Julia, who is 10, with a Big Sister. Even though she’s only been matched for just over a year, Gi Eun has already noticed a big difference in her English skills.
“We only speak Korean at home, so it’s been really good for Julia to have someone else to practice her English with,” Gi Eun says.
Crystal also notes that Julia seems happier too. She’s become more athletic and always has new places to go and explore with her Big. The Big Sister has focused on providing Julia access to new experiences that teach her about Canadian culture.
Our Amy has also helped set the family up with other community supports. Both girls are in gymnastics through Jumpstart and Gi Eun is taking English classes through the Edmonton Public Library. Her English has improved by leaps and bounds and she’s started doing some of the match follow up without needing Crystal to translate. Plus, in January 2015 the family was thrilled to officially become citizens of Canada!
Though the family has moved several times over the course of the years we’ve know them, each time the house is always a little bit nicer than the last. Right now they live in a beautiful duplex that is bright and spacious and they were recently selected to receive a home from Habitat for Humanity!
“It’s been amazing to watch their lives change and grow over these last three years,” Amy says. “The support from their Big Sisters has been really positive in cultivating self-esteem, confidence, and belonging in the girls. They always tell me about how appreciative they have been of our programs and support.”
There are so many exciting things happening for this family and we are so honoured to be a small part of their Canadian life.