“I was born in Pakistan and moved to Canada when I was very young. My parents wanted to raise my siblings and I in a safer environment, so they decided to make the leap, and I’m so grateful for that.”
When Ashar’s family arrived in Canada, they were welcomed by a strong support system, which helped them to overcome the challenges associated with transitioning to a new country. For a long time, Ashar believed that most newcomers were as fortunate as him.
“It was only when I began speaking with other immigrants as I got older that I learned about the obstacles many people had to face.”
Ashar’s decision to volunteer with Calgary Catholic Immigration Society was motivated by his desire to play a part in helping new immigrants and refugees to access the same opportunities and resources his family had. Since 2019, Ashar has been volunteering with the Immigrant Youth Outreach Program as a tutor for high school students. Currently in the final year of his bachelor’s degree in cell biology, he primarily focuses on biology and English.
“My most memorable experience actually happened just a few weeks after I joined. I was tutoring a student who needed help in biology. She was working on endocrinology, which is a difficult subject to learn and to teach. It was even more stressful because she had an exam coming up and we needed to cover a lot of material. Because we had so little time, I wasn’t entirely sure whether I did enough for her. I went home afterwards feeling a bit crestfallen.
When I went back the next week, as soon as I walked into the building, this student ran up to tell me that she had scored extremely well on her exam! Better yet, she told me that she wanted me to help her even more on the next unit. I was so taken aback. I wasn’t surprised that she did well, she’s quite bright, but hearing that she still wanted my help was a really moving moment.”
Ashar has found the experience of helping youth navigate the stressful academic part of high school to be very fulfilling. Volunteering with CCIS has become one of the most rewarding experiences in his life so far.
“I think the greatest part about volunteering is seeing your work have an impact and knowing that you had a part, however small, in that.”
This year has been tumultuous and often downright scary. Ashar’s 2020 vision for immigrants and refugees is that they find comfort and support in services offered by CCIS, and always remember:
“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. When you feel overwhelmed, try to take a step back and know that no feeling is final.