Local family has heartwarming connection to Sister Ouellette

Jodi Schellenberg
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Kelly Lam, Dong (Friday) Lam and Sister Irene Ouellette visit on Wednesday afternoon when the Lam family dropped by to see the 100-year-old woman. Friday credits Sister Irene with helping him find his way after he arrived in Prince Albert from Vietnam 35 years ago without a dollar in his pocket.

After hearing about Sister Irene Ouellette’s 100th birthday, the Lam family wanted to let her know how much they appreciate everything she did for their family 35 years ago.

“Sister Irene is so important to my family,” Dong (Friday) Lam said. “In 1978, St. Michael’s church sponsored me from Vietnam to come to Canada.”

According to Lam, Ouellette “cared a lot about my family and helped a lot.”

When Lam left Vietnam in 1978, he then went to Hong Kong, where he was stranded with no money.

Since they had no money, St. Michael’s Church stepped in to lend a helping hand.

“We were really lucky to have St. Michael’s church here to sponsor us to come to Canada, a wonderful country, to turn around our life,” Lam said. “The church helped pay to find me a place to live and give a lot of used furniture to help me start my life. I never forgot.”

Once in Prince Albert, Lam said since his family did not speak English, there was not only a cultural barrier but a language barrier as well. Ouellette helped their family adapt to the city.

“She would take you for your groceries or show where in Prince Albert (places were including) schools,” Lam said.

The time she took out of her own life to help them is “near to my heart,” Lam said.

“We didn’t have anybody to help and she helped,” he said.

He explained that his family moving to Canada would be equivalent to a Canadian family moving to Mexico.

“If you go to Mexico and you’ve got nothing, how would you survive? How would you live?” he said. “You don’t speak the language, you have no money at all, how do you feel? It is very tough.”

Thirty-five years ago when he moved to Canada, it wasn’t as open to immigrants as it is today.

“Today, you can speak the language or something, they can help you with that, maybe have life you start in,” Lam said. “At that time, we had nothing, no money, no language. I had to take care of my mom and dad too. There were so many things to do (and it was)  very tough. The church people, (they) helped quite a bit.

Since “not many people get 100th birthday” Lam and his family decided to show their appreciate of Sr. Ouellette with a bouquet of 100 flowers.

“To me and my whole family, turning 100 years old is (important) and a chance to say thank you for when we came to Canada and you took care of us,” Lam said. “From the bottom of our heart we thank her and are very happy for 100th birthday.”

Geographic location: Canada, Vietnam, Hong Kong Mexico

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