We Are Inspired: Ebraheem Abo-Korj
November 15, 2016

Ebraheem Abo-Korj

Inspired to Action

The arrival of 25,000 government-sponsored Syrian refugees to Canada between December 2016 and February 2016 raised much debate about whether it was the right thing to do, about the Syrians’ Islamic faith and the country’s ability to handle this influx of new immigrants. Most of the refugees also didn’t speak any English. So how would they integrate? Would they be happy to become Canadian?

To help answer some of these questions, they could have looked at the examples of Syrian refugees who had already arrived in Canada months prior. One of them is Palestinian-Syrian Ebraheem Abo-Korj.

He’s a motivated youth who is learning English and working hard to give back to his new community of Surrey.

“I left Syria in the beginning of 2013 escaping the war to Lebanon, where my asylum seeking journey started,” he says. “I stayed in Lebanon for nine months until I decided to leave to Malaysia. There I stayed for two years until my Palestinian travel document expired and I was detained by the Malaysian authorities and told that I was to be deported back to Syria, where it was likely that I would face torture and possibly be killed.”

Ebraheem spent 62 days detained in the airport in Malaysia, not knowing where to go or where he belonged. “This is when the UNHCR [The UN Refugee Agency] stepped in and notified me that I would be leaving to Canada as an asylum seeker.”

He landed in October 2015. “When I got to Canada, I was able to sleep at night and have a sense of security that I haven’t felt for a long time,” he says. “I was at peace knowing that I was far moved from war, torture and death.”

He made a promise to himself and his new community that he would show his gratitude by giving back to Canada. “I will give back to Canada as much as it has given me, especially that sense of security that I was not able to feel elsewhere,” he says.

Despite still learning English and settling in himself, Ebraheem was inspired to start giving back as soon as possible. He decided to form a group for other Arabic youth like himself to support and learn from each other, and to connect with their Surrey neighbours.

“I wanted to create a group whereby youth of Arab origins will be able to exhibit the beautiful and peaceful nature of our home cultures,” he says.

Ebraheem learned about the Neighbourhood Small Grant program from the Vancouver Foundation, which provides small grants of up to $500 for community-building projects, and he successfully applied and launched the Ethar Organization group.

It’s a small first step for Ebraheem, but one that foretells many good things to come from this young refugee in the coming years.  “I long for the day that I get my Canadian citizenship, because it is this country in the whole world that has given me back my sense of humanity and dignity.”