Determined to Rebuild

by Linda Leigh
Categories: Annual Review
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Ben was two years old when his family fled Afghanistan for Russia. A few years later, following the death of his father, the Ghiyasi family moved to Canada in the hopes of a better life.

The transition wasn’t easy and, while they managed to access some services, it was The Salvation Army Barbara Mitchell Resource Centre in Winnipeg that provided the support the family needed most.

Tough Early Years

Life amidst the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was dark and dim. Women were banned from jobs, girls over the age of 10 were forbidden to attend school, those who resisted the movement were severely punished and civilian casualties were on the rise.

In Moscow life for the Ghiyasi’s stabilized. Ben’s father was a successful small business owner, shipping household items to war-torn countries. Then tragedy struck.

While visiting family in Afghanistan, Ben’s father was killed in a car crash. His mom was suddenly left to provide for five children. She’d never held a job. A victim of the Taliban rule, she was forced from school at age 16. Social assistance provided limited funds and the family had no choice but to move to a one-bedroom apartment.

New Life

Mrs. Ghiyasi migrated to Canada where she believed she would find the best opportunities for her children. But there were a multitude of adjustments that left the family anxious and unsettled.

Before long an immigration worker referred Mrs. Ghiyasi to The Salvation Army Family Resource Centre that welcomes newcomers and supports them through a wide-range of services such as English Language programs, a food bank, clothing assistance, childcare services and a youth drop-in program.

“I remember my first visit to the centre,” says Ben. “While I couldn’t speak a stitch of English, I liked how people paid attention to me and I felt their concern. The centre gave me lots of opportunities for personal growth and helped me trust again, rather than seeing people as a threat.”

Ben attended a children’s club where activities such as water balloon fights and musical chairs made him feel that he belonged. Field trips to amusement parks and bowling alleys, things his mother could never afford, helped him adjust to Canadian culture, and the social interaction improved his language skills.

This past summer Ben was a youth mentor at The Barbara Mitchell Centre. ”I wanted to be part of a team that develops relationships with at-risk youth and empower them to succeed,” he says. “After all, it wasn’t that long ago that I was one of them.”