Born and raised in Vancouver, BC, Randa Salloum has spent the past 9 years becoming a successful lifestyle and fashion blogger. Randa’s parents both immigrated to Canada before her and her siblings were born, giving her first hand experience on the challenges immigrants and refugees face when arriving to Canada.
We sat down to learn more about her story, her experiences with racism and social inclusion and the journey her family took to build a life in Vancouver.
Can you share a bit about your family’s story?
My mother immigrated to Canada from Jordan in the early 1980’s and my father before her in 1971 from Lebanon. Upon arriving in Canada, they did not speak or understand English. They met each other in Vancouver at just 19 and married after only 3 months!
What struggles did your parents experience coming to Vancouver?
Prior to arriving in Canada, at just 11 years old my mother was forced to leave her home in Jordan due to the Civil War. She fled to Syria as a refugee and at 19, she came to Canada with her mother and 7 siblings. Both of my parents were forced to create a new life for themselves, including new friendships and new roles in society.
Did you ever witness racism or discrimination?
As a child, my skin, my face, and my food were different and not all children understood why and they could be insensitive. Then, after September 11th, I truly understood the full skepticism of my culture.
Can you tell us more about the skepticism?
I no longer felt the same in airports or crossing borders. I was subjected to “random checks” with full body searches, clearances of my luggage and my phone combed through.
Do you ever get asked questions that make you uncomfortable?
The question that makes me the most uncomfortable is “how did you pay for your home?”
Oops! We were just going to ask you, how were you able to afford a condo in such an expensive city?
It’s OK! In an expensive city like Vancouver, I viewed my rent payments as a waste of money. I had to make sacrifices like living with my parents and sticking to a budget. I started putting 15% of my paycheck aside every month and with some support from my parents, and Vancity I signed for my first mortgage.
Are we doing enough in our community to support refugees?
We can always do more, and it starts with community. When coming to Canada, Refugees face hardships like language and career barriers which may prevent them from adjust quickly. If we can collectively have a more understanding mindset towards our new friends, we can help them adjust to a life they’ve dreamed of.
How can your community be more inclusive and welcoming?
Fear is the number one emotion that holds us back from everything in our lives. We must live, learn and not allow our darker emotions to hold onto us.
How has Vancity made a difference to your family?
Vancity provided a framework for my family to build a life on. They helped my family get a mortgage, allowed them to build a portfolio and also provide my brother and I with our own homes and businesses.
Do you think where you bank makes a difference?
Yes! Things may have been different if we had chosen another financial institution over Vancity. They really wanted to see my family lead a successful life and worked with us to make that happen. We’ve been loyal to Vancity and they have been loyal to us.
Randa is taking over our Instagram account today. Follow along to hear more about her story and there will be a contest coming at the end.