Ali Allawi and his wife, Khalidah, had one reason to come to Canada—their children. Two of their three children are physically disabled and mainly use wheelchairs to get around.
“If I tell you my story, you won’t believe it,” says Ali. The family is from Iraq, but left there for Syria because life became difficult. They lived in Syria for four years where Ali worked as a superintendent in an apartment building. Doctors from Germany told them their best chance was for the children to receive care in Canada. They registered with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees and waited three years and nine months for their visas.
They arrived here in July 2014 with their two sons. “We couldn’t believe we were in Canada. This was our goal,” says Ali explaining that the children’s hospital here was highly recommended. “Our children had 18 appointments since we came here.” One son had surgery, while both have received physiotherapy and are now doing well. Hussein is 19 and is in grade 12 and hopes to go to college where he might take cooking. Ayoub is 13, in grade 8, and volunteers with Autism Nova Scotia. Their baby, Mohamed, was born here.
“We are helping each other; we are very happy here.” Ali is thankful to ISANS. “All our lives we will never forget ISANS. They helped us so much. When we came, we didn’t have any language, just greetings, but step by step we learned English.” Ali studied levels two to five, while his wife is currently in level three. The family participates in recreational activities. “I remember many visits to lakes,” says Ali. He says several programs were useful, but he especially enjoyed Introduction to Nova Scotia. “There is no excuse with the law because you don’t have the language. A tiny detail can affect you.”
Ali says if he needs documents, he visits ISANS but “we are independent people now. We like to give a chance to other families to use the programs.” Ali keeps busy caring for his family, volunteers with Meals on Wheels and is on the waiting list to do volunteer work at Hope Cottage. In Iraq he worked in construction, specifically ceiling installation, but because of a bad back he hasn’t looked for work in that field here.
The family lives in Clayton Park and has made friends from their homeland, as well as Syria and Egypt. A highlight of Ali’s life was in December 2018 when he became a Canadian citizen. He proudly announces he passed the test on his first attempt, a test he knows that many Canadians find difficult. “It was exciting. I have a picture with the judge. I’m really proud of both—to be Iraqi and to be Canadian.”
Ali says he will always direct newcomers to come to ISANS for assistance. And he also knows a person’s outlook is important too. “If I see something easy, it will be easy. If I look at it in a difficult way, it will be difficult.”