Abdel Karim Musa came to Canada as a refugee and now offers advice to other refugees as the Private Refugee Sponsorship Program Assistant at ISANS. “I tell them, don’t give up. Nothing is free here, but their lives will change eventually.”
Musa is a native of the Darfour region of the Sudan, an area that suffered years of famine. He fled to Egypt, and after four years he and his wife, Fatima, were permitted to come to Canada. A good student of history and geography, he knew about Canada but hadn’t heard of Halifax. Seven years later, Musa is happy here. “I love it; I can bike and walk. People are nice. If you are lost and ask for help, they will do so. It is a good place for us.”
He studied English in Sudan, so he started at an intermediate level here and mastered the language quickly. He then studied for his adult high school diploma and enrolled in aviation at the Nova Scotia Community College. He studied full time for a while but then chose to work and study part time; he graduated in 2013.
ISANS isn’t his only job — Musa works with Capital Health doing housekeeping. He also does tailoring for friends and clothes design at home. ”I grew up with these skills,” he explains. His background is in business as he ran a small general store in Sudan and sold goods in a market in Egypt.
Fatima is equally engaged in studies. After learning English, she went to NSCC to earn her high school diploma and then became a Continuing Care Assistant. She upgraded her physics and science skills and has applied to study nursing, architecture or engineering at Dalhousie. Fatima and Musa have two children, daughter, Amal, eight, and son, Ameer, six. The children are involved in swimming, soccer and African music and dance. Amal and Ameer are in French immersion and both are learning Arabic, as well as their native language, Massaliet.
Musa is active in the Sudanese Association of the Maritimes, an organization for local Sudanese to gather and celebrate their culture. Since they couldn’t visit family while in Egypt, they are anxious to return to Sudan to visit. “When you have family in a devastated place, it’s hard to forget them. We’re all trying to help,” he says, explaining that they financially assist their family. His goal is to finish schooling and find an engineering job. He and Fatima want to buy a house rather than continue to live in public housing. “I’d like to give the government a break so they can help other people!”
Musa knows that settling in a new country is not easy and that language is always the biggest obstacle. “There are challenges here. But we have peace and we’re free to work and do what we want to do. In seven years we have accomplished a lot. But when you first come here it’s like you’re just born.”