“Seven Seas Apart”
Muslim Food Bank Success Stories
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and telephone number is 1-866-824-2525.