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Meet Volunteer Padina Abdullahi: “Let’s be united and make Canada a better place together”

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How did your own immigration story inspire you to help newcomers?

“I would say it was very challenging, but at the same time, it was a blessing because I am who I am because of the experience that I have been through with my immigration with my parents. 23 years ago, we came to Canada: me, my mother, and youngest sister. 

In Montreal, it was very difficult because we didn’t speak French, so for us, there was no opportunity as I wasn’t speaking French, and my parents weren’t either, so we had to do another move to Ontario.

When we landed here in Toronto, I started going to school. I was in Grade 10, so I had to go to ESL classes. As you know, ESL is a little bit challenging. You have to start the new language; the grammar was hard. However, I finished my ESL, I finished my high school, and then I applied for university. I went to York University. I graduated four years later, but there was something missing in me. I wanted to do more. 

So I went back to school. I did my paralegal school because I want to help individuals, giving them advice legally. 

Still, something was missing inside of me, so I had to go back again to school to become a real estate agent to help more families find a new house they can call home.”

 

Why did you choose to volunteer with Together Project?

“One day I was so down, and I was on the Internet, and I said, ‘Okay, you know what, I need to do something for the community.’ There was something in my heart that was calling me– maybe it was the universe, God, or whatever you can call it– that I have to help individuals. 

So I went online and I’ll never forget that day: I googled Together Project and I started reading about it. 

I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s my story as an immigrant. Maybe I can help motivate new immigrants to be like me: to go to school, to educate themselves, to find a home, to be of help to a new immigrant. I can share my story with them, and that way they’re going to be motivated to be more comfortable to land in the new country.’”

 

How have you used your platform in real estate to help newcomers?

“As a real estate agent, I educate people to make better decisions. Lots of new immigrants, when they come to the country, they don’t know what the housing looks like in this country. 

So I try with my social media now to connect to more people, individuals, with my videos, educational videos. I do a lot of workshops in libraries. 

When you come to Canada, you don’t know which neighbourhood is suitable so you need to make sure the neighbourhood that you choose is good for your family, good for your kids, with a good school. I try to educate newcomers on my social media and in my workshops in libraries.”

 

What is your advice for newcomers and volunteers who are trying to find housing or are trying to solve housing challenges?

“I understand. I know it’s hard– even me, as a real estate agent helping the new immigrants, settling down is very, very hard. The rents are double. Even finding a place is hard. So my recommendation is this: don’t panic, breathe in, and find a good real estate agent who can help you to navigate and answer your questions and help you to find the right place to settle down again.

Hopefully, rents are going to come down eventually, and there’s going to be more housing for immigrants, but you’re not alone–  even us, we’re having a problem. It’s all Canadians going through this, so you’re not alone. We, as a community, we’re going to fight this battle.”

 

What were some of the highlights of your match?

Together Project was amazing so far. I’ve been in this beautiful community of good-hearted people for the last two and a half years, and they allow me to help individuals at the age of my parents, or younger generation, doesn’t matter the age, so I can speak to them, I can answer their questions.

One of my greatest experiences over the last two and a half years is that I was dealing with a single mother who was a refugee from Afghanistan. As you know, in Afghanistan, what people are going through is heartbreaking, so I cried with her when she was telling me the stories of what she had to go through. 

I really enjoyed a conversation that I had with her. We, women, no matter what we go through, we understand each other. At that moment, her tears were coming down and my tears were coming down, and I told her, ‘Listen, you’re not alone. We, as women, we’re going to help each other, and I’m here for you to give you the opportunity that I had 23 years ago when I landed in Canada: to go back to school, to educate myself, and be someone. And I want you to promise me one thing: when you get to that level, make sure to help someone like you.’”

 

What is your advice for potential volunteers?

“If you’re looking to volunteer and for a good cause, don’t wait– please, right now just give Together Project a call. You’re not going to regret this. 

This is the land of opportunity for you to connect to nice people from different cultures. Let’s be united and make Canada a better place together.”



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