You Were There for Oumar!

Young man sitting in park bench.

Your support has made it possible for Oumar to become a leader in his own community.

Do you remember that feeling of not fitting in? Of not belonging?

That’s what it was like for Oumar and his family, as newcomers to Canada.

They arrived from Iraq in 2003, just days before the American invasion. They had to leave everything behind and start over.

While Oumar was just a baby when he first arrived in Canada – and doesn’t remember what it was like, he does remember how it felt growing up in Kitchener.

As an Arabic-speaking Palestinian, Oumar always felt different.

Courtland Shelley Community Centre became like a second home for Oumar. It was a safe space.

The centre, one of many with programs run by House of Friendship, made Oumar feel at home. It was here that Oumar truly felt like himself.

“There’s a mural on the wall that has been there for many years – from before my time. It shows a group of children holding hands, all the way up the stairs,” said Oumar. “That mural is one of my first memories at Courtland Shelley – and it’s still one of my favourite things.”

The mural showed Oumar that Courtland Shelley was a warm, welcoming place, a place of life and energy. A place to belong.

The community centre also served as a hub of information and supports for nearby families – and for Oumar’s family, it was a crucial lifeline.

“As newcomers, our family faced many difficulties,” said Oumar. “Our parents didn’t know how things worked here, especially when we first arrived. Being able to find people just 200 metres from our home who could help was incredible.”

And growing up with the community centre nearby had a crucial impact on Oumar as he grew older. He found that many of the programs were run by adults he could trust and respect, who could serve as valuable mentors.

One of those mentors was Jonathan.

“He was a supervisor, but he felt like a friend, too,” said Oumar. “So much so that I used him for a medical school reference. I’m now waiting to sit down and interview at four different schools, and I know I have people like Jonathan to thank.”

As a youth, Oumar started helping out, handing out food, and providing Arabic translation for community members. Now, Oumar leads the Boys in Leadership group, mentoring youth in his community – the same way Jonathan mentored him.

This is the work that your support has made possible! You are ensuring that children and youth get the chance to grow and flourish, to reach their full potential while overcoming the challenges that poverty sets in their way.

Thank you for being there for Oumar, and for walking alongside other community members in need today!

Posted on: April 5th, 2024

Sign up for Friendship News!

Learn more about how you can make a difference and ensure that everyone can belong and thrive in Waterloo Region! Receive inspirational stories about how you are making a difference right to your inbox.