When the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, no one foresaw the devastation it would lead
to. The war kept on raging. Weeks turned into months and months turned into years. When the
global community witnessed the horrors of war through news media, they were determined to
intervene. One such voice was that of Justin Trudeau’s. He vowed to bring in 25,000 displaced
refugees into Canada and he stood by his word. Adbul Jabbar, his wife and two kids were among the
displaced Syrian refugees that got accepted into Canada.
When the Jabbars first arrived in British Columbia, they were placed in a Surrey hotel and
were provided winter clothing. The Jabbars’ expenses were all paid by the Canadian government.
Once they moved into their rental apartment, they were allocated a monthly stipend to pay for rent,
food, and other expenses for the first year. Upon the completion of the first year, they were
expected to become financially independent.
Being new to Canada, Abdul didn’t know a word of English. He was a truck driver in Syria
and his wife was a pharmacist technician. Abdul drove a truck for over twenty years in Syria. It’s all
he knew. Naturally, he wanted to continue working in this trade in his Canada and for that he
needed a driver’s license. Abdul visited a driver licensing office in Vancouver along with the Muslim
Food Bank caseworker, Saira Saleem. Saira had taken up the Jabbars’ case only three months after
their arrival in Canada. Saira helped fill out Abdul’s licensing forms and interpreted his conversations
with the office representatives.
There was a problem though. The licensing officer would not accept Abdul’s driving
experience from back home. Saira thought if his Syrian experience is not accepted, Abdul would
have to wait years before being able to sit for a test to be licensed to drive commercial vehicles such
as trucks. She knew how much Abdul wanted to start working
Saira didn’t give up. She took him to another driver licensing office. Fortunately, that branch
added Abdul’s previous driving experience to his file. Abdul now has his full license to drive small
cars. Next, he needs to learn English because the test for driving trucks has to be taken in English.
He attends English classes from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. He can’t wait to speak
“The biggest barrier for this family is language,” said Saira. She recalls Abdul telling
her about his days in the densely-populated refugee camp in Jordan. Abdul, his wife and two kids
were forced to stay there for one whole year before they emigrated to Canada. Abdul had to work
twenty hours a day to earn enough just to get by. He is glad that’s not the case here. What’s more,
his kids get to attend school. There were no schools in the refugee camp they were in.
A few months ago, a bank teller wouldn’t open an account for Abdul because he
couldn’t provide his social insurance number. Abdul didn’t know what a social insurance number is,
he didn’t have one in Syria. He called Saira and she helped him out. Saira also helped Abdul apply
for extended healthcare insurance. This was important for Abdul because he suffers from
rheumatoid arthritis and his medicines costs add up quickly.
“When someone asks you for help, it’s a gift from God,” Saira says about managing
the Jabbar family’s case. She is modest when talking about her contribution in Abdul’s success. She
says these are only the first steps of his journey in Canada and that he will accomplish a lot more on
These are real stories where our volunteers have an impact on members of our community
helping them progress in their lives. InshaAllah next week we will bring you another story. Please
join us to have a purpose in your life to make a difference in the lives of your brothers and sisters by
coming to our events and registering as a volunteer or donating to your organization, the Muslim
Food Bank and Community Services Society (usually referred to as Muslim Food Bank) at
www.muslimfoodbank.com/donate. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org and telephone
number is 1-866-824-2525.