NEWLY-ARRIVED SYRIAN REFUGEES GIVE VOLUNTEER A NEW PERSPECTIVE
Moving to a new place can be an exciting time for a family but for Hussein Nazari and his young family moving to Canada meant something entirely different. It meant finding refuge in a place where he would no longer have to worry for his family’s safety day in and day out. It also meant being uprooted from the place he called home and being separated from those he loved with very little prospect of being able to even visit them. Regardless, the pros far outweighed the cons.
Until a few years ago, Hussein had only ever heard the term refugee on television but for the past four years, Hussein learned first-hand the misery and despair that the R-word comes with. After years of being displaced due to the ongoing civil war, Hussein finally got the news he was looking forward to. He, his wife and two kids were offered asylum in Canada, a country he knew very little about. All he had heard was that Canadians are generous and their leader is a true humanitarian. With this hope, he packed the bit of belongings he had and got on the plane that flew him and his family across continents, all the way to Vancouver.
Not long after their arrival, the Muslim Food Bank & Community Services assigned caseworker Saima Hashim to support Hussein and his family in their integration. Since both Hussein and his wife Amira spoke English fluently, language wasn’t an issue. However, as with a lot of new immigrants, the biggest challenge for this family was financial. Though the government supported Hussein’s family with a monthly stipend, because the kids’ child tax benefits hadn’t kicked in, their budget was still bare bones.
Both of Hussein’s kids were placed in a school that was not walking distance from their rental apartment. This was a a very trying time for Hussein because he couldn’t afford to buy bus passes for them. Saima presented their case to the Muslim Food Bank program coordinator, Hiba Ali, hoping she will be able to provide some support at least temporarily. Hiba was familiar with Hussein’s case and was keenly aware of what their monthly income and expenses were. She also knew that after all the bills are paid, Mustafa had only $200 left for food for the entire month. Hiba had already arranged two weeks worth bus tickets for the Nazaris in the past yet she provided them bus tickets for another two weeks. Thankfully, as of September the family will be moving closer to the kids’ school so they will no longer have to commute.
A lady reached out to the Muslim Food Bank saying she wants to help out. Since she didn’t have time to volunteer she offered to provide monetary help to a family in need. When Saima told her about Hussein and his family, she became very eager to assist. She spoke to her family and friends who came together to chip in a total of $400. Hussein was very grateful for receiving the support and used the cash to purchase food supplies for his family.
To Saima, being able to volunteer for the Muslim Food Bank has been a truly rewarding experience. For starters, she feels that Hiba goes above and beyond in supporting her efforts to help her clients. What’s more, she has a newfound gratitude for the blessings in her life.
“Working with this family made me a more grateful person,” Saima asserts. “For instance, we take it for granted that our laundry will be conveniently done in our washer and dryer. This family has to carry their clothes to a Laundromat.”
Saima is really glad she signed up to volunteer for the Muslim Food Bank and hasn’t looked back since.
“I just felt the need to give. It was a calling and that’s when this opportunity came up. My husband and I work on cases together,” Saima said with a spark in her eyes.
Hussein has had quite a bit of progress in the first few months since he arrived in Canada. Last week, he was accepted into a role in an architecture firm with a three-month probation period.
“He has taken this up work so he can get some cash flowing and get Canadian experience,” Saima states. Saima feels that supporting this family as well as other people in need has been a great privilege of her life and she thanks the Muslim Food Bank for creating such a great platform.