________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 11. . . .November 12, 2010


Everybody's Children.

Monika Delmos (Writer & Director). Anita Lee (Producer). Silva Basmajian (Executive Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2008.
51 min., 27 sec., DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: 153C 9108 051.

Subject Headings:
Refugee children.
Canada-Emigration and Immigration.

Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 years and up.

Review by Joanne Peters.

*** /4



What is it like to be 16 or 17-years-old and finding yourself in another country, with but a suitcase and $20.00 to your name? Well, both Joyce Nsimbah and Saillieu Dankieh know, all too well. Escapees from Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, they walked off an airplane as unaccompanied minors from war-torn countries, to find themselves in Toronto, facing a variety of challenges. Both have left difficult family situations, and both find themselves facing struggles for which they are largely unprepared.

      For both, language is an issue – Saillieu becomes reasonably fluent, but for Joyce, French is her first and best language, and, although there are French-speaking supports, the lack of fluency in English is an issue. For both, the lack of any government-based supports for young adult immigrants is a huge problem. In many cases, young adult immigrants, unaccompanied by family, become "invisible" to the bureaucracy and fall between the cracks of any sort of support system. For both, attaining their Permanent Residency status becomes a huge goal, although the financial cost for someone with no means of support is daunting. And, for both, having had their schooling interrupted by war makes it difficult to re-integrate into high school classes.

      Still, they both find ways to make the situation work for themselves. Saillieu manages to move to Matthew House, a refugee settlement service home, where he finds a sense of community. Joyce has a beautiful singing voice and is gifted with musical ability; both talents serve her well within the context of the Salvation Army community which supports her with faith and a sense of communal belonging.

      Both young people seek something which takes them beyond the horrors that they have experienced in their war-torn homelands, places where being threatened by machetes or the possibility of life as a prostitute are realities they have escaped. Still, both show a surprising willingness to move beyond bitterness: Saillieu wishes to become a firefighter, to help others, and, while Joyce is uncertain as to where the future will take her, it is clear that her faith and perseverance will sustain her.

      For those who live in large urban communities with young immigrants from war-torn countries, Everybody's Children speaks with a powerful voice. Subtitles underscore Saillieu's accented English and Joyce's French –one cannot help but admire the strength of these two young people who try so hard to make their way, independently, in a new and strange, country. Everybody's Children will be a useful acquisition, both to professional staff (teachers and support workers) in environments with African immigrant communities, and to high school students who wish to reach out and extend support to those who find themselves in a large urban high school, very different from their homeland, and in need of friendship.


Living in Winnipeg, MB, Joanne Peters is a recently retired high school teacher-librarian.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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