Hiba Al Odat, along with her mother and two younger brothers, arrived in Vancouver on a typical winter night (rainy and cold!). Their long journey to Canada started in Syria three years earlier. While they had a good life there, the escalation of the war made life dangerous and bleak. They left for Jordan, which was safer, but also meant limitations on their future.
At first, Hiba’s mother declined the opportunity to settle in Canada or the United States. But as time wore on, and she saw how excited others were to make the move, she made the bold decision to leave her home with her children.
Hiba and her brothers began attending school and the challenging task of learning to speak the written English they had learned. At first, Hiba’s mother wondered if they had made a mistake when they observed many Canadians facing hardship and homelessness in their Strathcona neighbourhood. But they persevered and began to immerse themselves in their lives here.
On the recommendation of a friend, Hiba participated in the VPD’s NewKids program, which is funded by the VPF. This program is for immigrant and refugee youth who often come from countries where the police are corrupt, violent or the arm of dictatorial or failing/failed states. Hiba herself told us that her view of police was not originally positive, based on her experiences. Yet she met and talked to many police officers during this program and now believes that the police are essential partners in the community, as well as people that anyone in Vancouver can call for help and support. NewKids also helped her overcome her own shyness.[Note: After speaking with this amazing, confident and inspiring young woman, it’s hard to believe that she hung back in the group and was reluctant to ask questions.]
Hiba volunteers with an organization called Meet a Muslim, which visits churches and other community gathering places to help dispel people’s misconceptions and beliefs about Islam. Through coffee, chocolate and books (three of our favourite things!) she and the other volunteers are reaching people and building strong ties within our community.
As one of the 2020 recipients of the prestigious Beedie Luminaries scholarships, Hiba is set to attend university in the fall, where she plans to study psychology. We are so proud of her and wish her the best of success in her studies, community volunteering and her choice of profession.
#MakingADifference #Community #StrongerTogether
Learn more about the NewKids Program from the participants themselves!