Grade 10 student Umar and his family recently arrived in Canada from a country in political turmoil. As refugees, the transition from their home to this new country has been extremely stressful. Shortly after the family settled into an apartment, his 18-year-old sister began to act strangely, crying without explanation, muttering to herself, leaving home and walking for hours at a time. The parents speak little English and do not know anyone else from their country of origin. They are ashamed to tell anyone outside the family about the sister’s problems since mental illness carries a huge stigma in their culture. They have sworn their son to secrecy. He comes to school everyday with a stomach ache, sitting silently and speaking to no one. He is unable to concentrate on his school work.
When Umar's teacher notices how distracted and quiet Umar is, she is very concerned. She observes him closely for a while but when Umar does not seem to settle in, she approaches him to chat. He remains guarded and reveals little, but he noticed her attentiveness and caring. A couple of weeks later, Umar approaches his teacher to talk about what is happening in his family. She listens and lets him know she is trying to understand what is going on for him (see Becoming an Ally/Listening). She offers to connect him with a settlement worker in their school who can help him find culturally – adapted services for his family. He is very relieved to hear about this service and he agrees.