Naod’s family knew nothing about Canada when they arrived as refugees in a winter blizzard years ago

Today, he volunteers to help other newcomers navigate their new home.

Naod, left, and Michael at Welcome Place

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Naod didn’t have much control over his life five years ago. Violent unrest during the 2011 Egyptian revolution forced Naod, his mother and two sisters to abandon their home, leaving his father behind.

“My mom was extremely worried. There was a time that we didn’t go to school for a month because of the revolution,” says Naod.

The family’s application for refugee protection was accepted by the United Nations – and in 2013, during a cold Winnipeg blizzard, they were warmly welcomed by Michael Habtom, former Life Skills Trainer turned Volunteer Services Coordinator at Welcome Place, a United Way donor-supported agency.

“I was there to receive him from the airport so now I’ve known him since that time,” says Michael, who was once a newcomer himself.

Naod and Michael at Welcome Place

“I love serving, and seeing people develop and flourish.”

Welcome Place, also known as the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, provides life skills, temporary housing, clothing and other resources to help newcomers transition to life in Canada.

Since 2013, Welcome Place has helped the family on their journey. They received temporary housing, English classes, job searching skills and nutritional education on Canadian foods. Michael says that things like understanding a grocery store, how to use an ATM machine or even crossing the street can be daunting challenges for newcomers.

Welcome Place has 25 active volunteers that run classes to teach language skills, help with job searching and money management, and computer skills to become more independent. “Just by coming here, they develop this type of confidence,” says Michael.

“Helping other newcomers is a way of expressing gratitude.”

Naod has gratitude for the help his family received from Welcome Place. He says helping others is part of his nature, which led him to volunteer at the agency himself for the past two years.

“I love serving, and seeing people develop and flourish,” says Naod. He understands what it’s like to feel helpless as a newcomer and refugee.

“When I see people who are new to the country and they can’t do simple stuff it bugs me. I try to help them as best as I can. So that kind of pushed me to pursue volunteering here.”

Naod volunteers to help people learn computer skills, and also to accompany them on social and recreational outings organized at Welcome Place. He takes great pleasure in not only helping people, but also in developing relationships that spread into the community.

“They say hi to me, they tell what they did with their life, what happened after Welcome Place and it makes me feel happy. It makes me feel happy to see them happy about coming here.”

Today Naod is pursuing post-secondary education and hopes to become a cardiologist to help people in developing countries. His father was finally able to join his family last May.

He says donors who support Welcome Place through United Way Winnipeg are not only helping families like his, they are investing in Canada’s economy.

“You’re putting in money and you’re going to see the growth of the people you are helping.”

Help give people like Naod hope. Donate today.

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