Bethia describes herself as a “teacher and immigrant who lives a pretty quiet life” in Ottawa. We met over coffee and chatted about her life here, the culture shock that came from immigrating as a refugee from Liberia, and her two sons.

I’m Bethia. I obviously am from Africa – Liberia, to be precise. I live here alone. I don’t have any family except for my two little boys, who are 9 and 3. Most of my family is in Liberia. I’m a teacher – I teach at the Ottawa Catholic School Board, delivering the after school program. I’m a graduate of the University of Ottawa and… that’s it, basically. 

When did you move to Ottawa? 

I don’t know if I can remember. A long time ago – in 2001. Yes, 2001. Almost 10 years ago now.

Why did you choose to move to Ottawa? 

Because of family. I used to have family here. My sister was going to Carleton, and she was living here alone. So I just came and joined her, but then she moved back to Liberia and I decided to stay. It’s almost like a first home to me, since I came to Canada.

I love it here. Everything from the food and the weather to interactions with people and how to go about doing daily things – it was all very different for me when I first immigrated. If it wasn’t for my sister I probably would have gone back. I felt a little lonely. But things have changed. For me, it’s about meeting a variety of people and getting to talk to them and learn. It’s the little things that make me happy. I also love the language. I’m still in the process of becoming a fluent French speaker, but I’ve been able to acquire some French speaking skills. That’s good for me.

When I first moved here, there weren’t many people from where I come from. Like, it wasn’t very multicultural. But now I see that there is a little more multiculturalism in Ottawa. When I first moved here, I was the only person from Africa in my church, but now I can count more than 20 people there.

It would be nice if there were more childcare options, especially for single-parent families. For my second child I needed daycare so I could work, and we had to wait almost a year just to get on a waiting list. 

We did your photos at Parliament Hill – why was that an important place for you?

Parliament Hill is the first site I went to when I first got here. My sister brought me there. I felt very happy to see it. It was nice to see people out and doing things, taking pictures. It really felt different and new to me.

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