Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
'Our golden chance'
In Afghanistan, he witnessed his father's murder; here, he shrugs off his award as a role model for youth
Khalid Hassani goes to school full time, works two jobs to support his mother and five siblings and drives two brothers to gymnastics several times a week.
He may have won Winnipeg's Youth Role Model Award for courage recently, but says life here and now is a piece of cake compared to what the family left behind in Afghanistan.
"Two people killed my father in front of me," said Khalid, recalling the shooting death of his dad at his electronics shop in Kabul when Khalid was just eight.
Having a business in Afghanistan was very difficult because his dad often had to deal with different religious military groups and gangs, said Khalid, now 24.
"Angry men" would go to the shop and demand money from his father. He gave them money, but that didn't stop them from coming back for more.
"Finally, my father said 'No, we don't have money for you.' " At 5 p.m. that day, when Khalid was with his dad minding the store, two men came back and shot his dad in the head.
"I was in shock," said Khalid. Their dad took care of the family. It wasn't long after he died that they were destitute. Khalid said his dad's family wanted nothing to do with his widow and six kids.
A neighbour convinced them to move to Pakistan where life would be a little better. There, the kids went to work in rug factories and their mom got piecework sewing. Khalid worked for a tailor in the morning, struggled in school in the afternoon, then went to his job at a pharmacy at night.
"We didn't think about our future or tomorrow," he said.
The pharmacist he worked for heard about the family's plight and helped Khalid apply for refugee status.
"We got our golden chance," he said from the family's big rented bungalow in St. James.
"Here, you can be anything you want."
They arrived in Canada in 2008 as government-sponsored refugees.
"We had to learn English. That was very difficult, when you go somewhere and don't know the culture."
As the oldest boy, though, it was his responsibility to step up.
"For one year, you have assistance," he said. "After that, you have to make your money."
So that's what he did. He works at Canada Safeway's Crestview store and is a Free Press carrier. He goes to classes during the day at Sturgeon Heights Collegiate.
He's thinking maybe he wants to be a police officer, but his mom isn't so sure. Where they come from, police have a bad reputation. In between classes, jobs and planning his future, Khalid drives Qayum and Fahim, his brothers who are competitive gymnasts, to practice.
"Their goal is hopefully to go to the Olympics," said Khalid.
Qayum also won a Youth Role Model Award for his athletic ability.
At the Citizens' Equity Committee's awards ceremony, their proud mom Jamila wept tears of joy at her sons' accomplishments.
"My mom doesn't want money. She wants us to be educated people," said Khalid.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 26, 2012 J7
Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Photo Store Gallery
Africa is one complex and gloriously unmanageable 'theme' to choose to kick off our 2012 series, Our City Our World, which is why it took up the whole newspaper on Jan. 18.
Hard-working Chinese immigrants, once banned, have risen to the highest echelons of Manitoba.
German immigrants have played a surprisingly large role in the development of the province.
Arriving in Manitoba in the 1870s unprepared for a brutal winter, Icelandic settlers and their descendants have left their mark on our province.
Industrious Italians rose from peasant roots and adapted to Canadian society by mastering L’art d’arrangiarsi (the art of getting by).
It used to be the only time Prairie folks met Spanish-speaking people was when they vacationed down south. More often now, they're the people next door.
When the first Middle East families immigrated to Manitoba, mosques were unheard of and even yogurt was exotic. But now all that has changed.
A booming Filipino community nearly 60,000 strong has transformed Manitoba.
As the city's Indo-Canadian population experiences dramatic growth, its pioneers recall their warm Winnipeg welcome.
Scarred by Holodomor, the Ukrainian community helped shape Winnipeg's cultural mosaic.
Manitoba's history is built on a foundation provided by settlers from the U.K., who came here seeking better lives.
Ads by Google