Ottawa

Facebook group fosters friendships for newcomers to Ottawa

Mimi Do started the Newcomers in Ottawa Facebook group to bring people together and create a support system. Do has watched the group grow from just a handful of members to more than 1,600 in just a year.

Group has more than 1,600 members from 100 countries

Left to right: Carine Grand-Jean, Nazmul Haque, Mimi Do and Neha Majithia all met through the Newcomers in Ottawa Facebook group. (Kate Tenenhouse/CBC)

When Mimi Do, 27, decided to move to Ottawa from Singapore in 2017, she didn't know many people in town.

After about six months living in the city, she started the Newcomers in Ottawa Facebook group to bring people together and create a support system.

"It's so hard in here when you're new to town and you don't have your own gang," Do said.

"After this group, I know so many people and people were really reaching out to me to offer help for me."

Moving to a new city can be exciting but also daunting and that's where the group Newcomers in Ottawa comes in. We get to know how they help people feel right at home. 6:20

Do has watched the group grow from just a handful of members to more than 1,600 in a year.

New friendships have formed through gatherings for the FIFA World Cup and Winterlude, but also just grabbing coffee or a couple beers.

Mimi Do, 27, started the Newcomers in Ottawa Facebook group last year. (Kate Tenenhouse/CBC)

Friends online and offline

The group recently celebrated its first anniversary at a restaurant in the market.

Nazmul Haque, 34, moved to Ottawa last winter from Bangladesh.

"It was pretty depressing being in a new city where you simply don't know anybody. The first few months was definitely the toughest," he said.

Haque was excited to see so many familiar faces at the anniversary celebration, which had about 60 people packed into the small restaurant.

Pointing out friends from France, China, India and Canada, Haque said the group has members from more than 100 countries.

"I think it had quite a dramatic impact in the way I live my life," he said.

"I met so many newcomers like myself and I'm not just talking about immigrants from other countries but Canadians who come from other cities." 

Nazmul Haque, 34, came to Ottawa from Bangladesh last winter. He said the Newcomers in Ottawa Facebook group had a huge impact on his life. (Kate Tenenhouse/CBC )

Community as a support system

Neha Majithia, 34, came to Ottawa from India last February and she said the group made the move a little easier.

"Very often what happens is you're interested in doing a bunch of things, but then you don't have company to go and that's why this is so great because you just put it out there and people who are interested who you've never met will come and give you company," said Majithia.

Neha Majithia, 34, moved to Ottawa from Bombay last year. Her advice to newcomers is to 'look for that community because it's there.' (Kate Tenenhouse/CBC)

"I can definitely count on that community as a support system and I think that's important," she said.

Hassan Choker, 24, grew up in Lebanon and moved to Ottawa three months ago from Montreal. When a new friend told him about Newcomers in Ottawa group, he decided to attend the anniversary party, but he wasn't sure what to expect.

"When I came here I saw [so] many people from different backgrounds and yes, I'm so excited about going to more events with Newcomers in Ottawa," he said.

Hassan Choker, 24, moved to Ottawa just three months ago. He wasn't sure what to expect from the Newcomer in Ottawa meetup, but he said he's glad he found the group. (Kate Tenenhouse/CBC)

'Don't stay in your own bubble'

By the end of the night, Choker was already adding new friends on Facebook and looking forward to making connections.

His advice to newcomers: "Please don't do the same mistake that I did when I came to Canada [the] first time. You don't really have to be isolated."

Majithia had the same message.

"Definitely reach out. Don't stay in your own bubble. Look for that community because it's there," she said.

The Newcomers in Ottawa Facebook group recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. (Kate Tenenhouse/CBC)