By: Leyland Cecco and Annie Sakkab/UNCHR
When he first arrived in Canada as a refugee in 1978, Osman Ali felt confused, overwhelmed and lost. But the affable young man, who had played competitive basketball back in Somalia and was used to a challenge, looked forward.
“Nothing can hold you back,” says Osman. “If you work hard, get education, you will advance.”
He attended university in Toronto to study electrical engineering and found a job shortly after graduation.
But that was not enough for Osman. Years later, when civil war engulfed Somalia and refugees fled to Canada, he started a community organization to welcome and assist new arrivals. It is still running today, helping young people by offering scholarships and entrepreneurial training. “We feel if we produce successful youth, we pay back the debt that we owe to Canada, which welcomed us,” he says.