“Seven Seas Apart”

Mus­lim Food Bank Suc­cess Sto­ries

The Miracle - - Women - An Afghan Man Leaves His Kids Be­hind to Find Refuge for Them.

G hu­lam Muham­mad was a physi­cian in the south­ern Afghan city of Kan­da­har. He had four kids who were noth­ing like each other yet Ghu­lam could never de­cide whom he loved the most. Though Ghu­lam cre­ated a com­fort­able life for his wife and kids, he couldn’t stop wor­ry­ing about their safety out­side the home. It was the con­stant gun fires, bombs and rock­ets that kept him up at night. Ghu­lam didn’t re­mem­ber a time when Afghanistan was peace­ful. In 2012, at the height of war, Afghanistan had reached all world records. The world’s poor­est coun­try, the coun­try with the low­est lit­er­acy rate, the coun­try with the world’s big­gest refugee pop­u­la­tion. To Ghu­lam, these were more than just sta­tis­tics. They were the bit­ter truths of his life. Ghu­lam and his wife, Zainab, de­cided that they will 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. He re­quested his cousin to care for them un­til he had a home ready for them some­place safe. Zainab cra­dled her oneyear-old daugh­ter as they left for a jour­ney very few peo­ple dare to take on. It was a jour­ney through con­ti­nents. First the Muham­mads trav­elled to Europe. From there they im­mi­grated to the U.S. where they lived for three years. When Ghu­lam’s fam­ily ar­rived in Canada in Novem­ber, 2015, they first set­tled in New West­min­ster. Tariq Aziz, a case­worker at the Mus­lim Food Bank & Com­mu­nity Ser­vices, was handed Ghu­lam’s case two months into their ar­rival. To Tariq it was clear that Ghu­lam and Zainab’s big­gest strug­gle was sep­a­ra­tion from their kids. Their eyes thirsted to see each one of the kids 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. ASPIRE stands for Ac­tu­al­iz­ing Self-Re­liance by Pro­vid­ing In­spi­ra­tion, Re­sources and Ed­u­ca­tion. Each client in the ASPIRE Com­mu­nity Ser­vices pro­gram is paired with an ASPIRE case­worker who as­sists them in over­com­ing ob­sta­cles and achiev­ing suc­cesses through one-to-one sup­port. Tariq, like most vol- un­teers in this pro­gram, is mo­ti­vated by the de­sire to serve the un­der­served. Though new im­mi­grant s gen­er­ally re­quire in­ter­pre­ta­tion due to lan­guage bar­rier, Tariq didn’t have to in­ter­pret for Ghu­lam be­cause he speaks English flu­ently. “Ghu­lam is self-suf­fi­cient and is a quick­learner,” Tariq says. Tariq soon learned that the Muham­mads were strug­gling to put food on table as Ghu­lam had not yet found a job. Through the help of the ASPIRE pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor who over­sees all cases, Tariq was able to pro­vide Ghu­lam’s fam­ily a Wal­mart gift card to pay for food and other es­sen­tials. 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 soon ac­cepted al­low­ing his fam­ily to move into a more af­ford­able home. Tariq also taught Ghu­lam how to ac­cess pub­lic tran­sit. Ghu­lam and his wife be­gan in­te­grat­ing into Cana­dian life­style one step at a time. Zainab at­tended English classes and Ghu­lam has started net­work­ing for jobs. There was still one more moun­tain to climb though which was spon­sor­ing their kids. Ghu­lam and Zainab ap­pealed to the Cana­dian Im­mi­gra­tion board to help re­unite them with their kids on the ba­sis of hu­man­i­tar­ian and com­pas­sion­ate grounds. Eight months af­ter their ini­tial ap­peal, Rai­han, Kai­han and Aisha were ac­cepted into Canada. Three long years later, the Muham­mads were to­gether again. At last, Ghu­lam didn’t have to rely on faded mem­ory to re­mem­ber his kids’ faces any longer. At last, he didn’t have stare at his three kids’ wrin­kled pho­tos from old fam­ily al­bums any longer. He was fi­nally re­united with them. 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 con­tact@mus­lim­food­bank.com and tele­phone num­ber is 1-866-824-2525.

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