Ali’s story on coming to Canada

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Missing out on school

My story goes back to childhood when at the age of six months old in Afghanistan, my father passed away. My mom and I moved from Afghanistan to Iran at the age of two. Life was really tough for us, just for the simple fact that Afghans were not allowed to go to school or have any jobs in their country. So as a kid I never experienced what it means to be in a school setting and I missed everything up until grade five. When I was 11 years old, we got sponsored to come to Canada, and this country gave us a second opportunity in life. For me, the struggle started when we came to Canada and I started in grade five.

I had a tough time, a more tough time than other kids, just because I didn’t have the foundations, which was learning. I didn’t know words or how to hold the pen properly. The other students there helped me quite a bit. It happened to be that within six months, I was translating for every new family that would come to the school. So when you would come to my school, if you were Afghan, I would be the one in grade five translating for a family when they wanted to register their kid in class. That was pretty huge, and that made me understand, that I achieved my goal; I could speak the language, to a point where they will have me translate. It made me realize that anything is possible if you really put your mind and effort into it, and you have a good support system behind you, you can do anything.

One-on-one support

To help me in school, they hired a student teacher for me, to support me one-on-one because I was so behind — I was struggling. I think without that young lady I wouldn’t be where I am today, she helped me so much! I also had the support of my mom, which was really huge. And she is a person who has been through so much in her life, for her to sacrifice her life for me, THAT was huge! If it wasn’t for that support, I would not have the same story as it is today. So for me to see what sacrifices she made, there was more of a motivation for me to do better, to make her happy. The sacrifices that she made made me realize that I have to give all my best to develop and to become a man that she dreamt of.

Moving to Toronto

In grade seven, we decided as a family that we would move to Toronto, I guess maybe for a better life and more challenges. Since then it’s been amazing. There are more opportunities, you meet more people, you see a lot more people from your country here.

In high school I wasn’t the best athlete, but I joined every team. I would be on the bench or playing a little bit but I was on every team you could name it. So, it’s funny, in grade 10 my coach made a sports leadership award just for me. He knew that I wasn’t the kid that was the best at the sport, but I’ll be the kid that will always try, that will always give my best no matter what the case may be.

So, besides the team, he made me run intramural sports, organize sporting events, because he knew that I was good at bringing people together for a purpose. I was pretty heavily involved in and around sports.

So, that was a trigger that made me realize that this is the strong suit that I have, that I can start things and help people. I wanted to be that support for other people. So this is why I work in the community that I grew up in. I saw young people struggling and there is no help, there is no support! It was just natural for me to understand what people needed help, why people needed help and where I could be of use.

Father figures

My gym teacher and my history teacher each played very important roles in my life — they were like father figures because I never had a father. So, I’ve talked to these two guys, and, I tell you, to this day every semester, I go back to school, I go back to high school and those two same teachers are there and, and the love that they have in their eyes when I see them is just amazing. They helped me quite a bit, they have supported me in the decisions that I’ve made, and attending university and pushing me through to do what I do today.

Life lessons

I think one of the big life lessons, that I got from this life experience is that rather than being bogged down on small things such as money, such as relationships, such as things that you don’t have that other people have, I think that we just need to sometimes feel blessed that we are alive, that we are on this earth to go through another day. It’s realizing that simple fact that if I was back home right now in Afghanistan, I wouldn’t know that I would be alive tomorrow. So for me, that’s what motivates me to get up tomorrow and do it all again. Besides, the rest, will all come — the money will come, the relationships will come, the prosperity will come. You have to treat yourself right and understand who you are rather than comparing yourself with other people, because everyone goes through a different struggle. And so understanding your uniqueness and your specialty is what’s important.

It’s huge that a kid, a kid from Afghanistan with one mother who had no father figure in his life, was able to make it. Sometimes a story like this gives the other person some sort of energy, some sort of power that you know what? I can do it too!

Yeah, and finally, just stay true to yourself, stay true to yourself, I think.