Aqila Azizi’s Story

I am originally from Kabul, Afghanistan. We arrived in Canada about 11 years ago in the middle of a cold winter. Of course, we were not prepared for the Saskatchewan-kind of cold. However, it was much better than many other places in the world where safety was the main factor. After the civil war broke out in Afghanistan, we moved to Pakistan as refugees. I can clearly remember the overly populated refugee camp. Around 350 people lived together in a big hall. Each family was able to have about 25m2 of area where we were able to set our belongings such as bed mats and pillows. There was no such thing as privacy. There were babies crying in the middle of the night, people talking and yelling. I personally did not feel safe there; I used to hold on to my mother at all times. We attended school where the classes were very full. Everything was taught verbally because we didn’t have any writing utensils. Food in the refugee camp was strictly for survival. The food was served at a specific time. If we were to miss the meal times for reasons such as medical appointment, we basically didn’t get food for that day. It is hard to think back to my life in the refugee camp because it brings so many memories that are not often so pretty.

After my father got a stable job in Pakistan, we were able to leave the refugee camp and live on our own. I can still remember the joy that I felt knowing that we would have privacy and be independent again. After living in Pakistan for a year, we were able to come to Canada as immigrants. There was a long waiting period while our papers were processed. Arriving in Canada was the greatest feeling. To this day, I have so much respect for Canadians in terms of their values and ethics. I believe the world would move at a higher rate if everyone were to follow Canadian values. These values include embracing diversity, being generous and wise with their time and resources. It is my dream that Afghanistan will share the same values of diversity, kindness and wisdom in the future.

I sometimes feel a lot older than most of my friends mainly because I have gone through a lot of challenges. Sometimes we take every moment of life for granted and forget the opportunities that we have. Life in Canada is great and I couldn’t ask for a better life. Everything is up to the individual’s choice of action and the sky is literally the limit. There are some places in the world where it is impossible to get basic education or simply get daily nutrients. I hope and pray that places where there are still complications will become places of opportunity and freedom.

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