Ghulam Muhammad was a physician in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. He and his wife Zainab had four children. Ghulam had created a comfortable life for his wife and kids, but he couldn’t stop worrying about their safety outside the home. The sound of gunfire, bombs, and rockets kept him up at night. In 2012, at the height of war, Afghanistan reached a low point. It became the world’s poorest country, the country with the lowest literacy rate, and the site of the world’s biggest refugee population. Ghulam and Zainab decided that they could not accept the fate that Afghans were destined with. They packed their bags in the hopes of finding refuge somewhere far away. Ghulam didn’t have enough money to pay for his three older kids, Raihan, Kaihan and Aisha’s voyage so he had to leave them behind.

Ghulam and his wife and youngest child arrived in Canada in 2015. Tariq Aziz, a caseworker with MFBCS, was assigned Ghulam’s case two months into their arrival. To Tariq it was clear that Ghulam and Zainab’s biggest struggle was separation from their children. They yearned to see the children they’d left behind. “Ghulam only ever talked about his kids that were back home,” Tariq recalls. Tariq is just one among many volunteers that work for the ASPIRE community services program designed to help individuals and families stand on their own feet. When he learned that Ghulam’s family was struggling to put food on the table, he was able to provide Ghulam’s family a Walmart gift card to pay for food and other essentials through help from the ASPIRE coordinator. What’s more, Tariq helped Ghulam navigate the waters of Canadian life by guiding him through various online resources such as the WorkBC and the BC Housing websites. Ghulam’s application for subsidized housing was accepted, allowing his family to move into a more affordable home. Tariq even taught Ghulam how to access public transit.

With Zainab attending English classes and Ghulam networking for jobs, there was still one more mountain to climb. The couple appealed to the Canadian Immigration board to help reunite them with their children. Eight months after their initial appeal, Raihan, Kaihan and Aisha were accepted into Canada. Three long years into their journey, the Muhammads were together again. At last, Ghulam and Zainab didn’t have to rely on faded memories to remember his kids’ faces any longer. The family of six was finally reunited.

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