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Together again: (from left to right) Khalil, Najwa and their children, Ibrahim, Alaa and Aya at United Way-funded agency TNO’s Youth Space.

A new home, a warm welcome

For the Khalil family, life in Aleppo, Syria used to be filled with all the normal activities many of us take for granted. Like enjoying time with family and friends, dropping the kids off at school and coming home after work. Their day-to-day was peaceful and routine.

Sadly, as the devastating humanitarian crisis unfolded in Syria, the Khalils were forced to abandon everything. As things worsened, Khalil Khalil became concerned for his family’s safety. “No one wants to leave their country, but we couldn’t stay because of the death and destruction,” he explains. He and his wife Najwa made the difficult decision to flee to Canada.

Khalil took the first step alone, leaving Najwa and their three young children behind in a city battered by conflict. Fortunately, after arriving in Toronto, Khalil connected with United Way-funded agency Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office. It’s part of United Way’s network of 40 community agencies delivering more than 55 programs that support refugees. Thanks to your generosity, this critical safety net is in place for vulnerable newcomers like the Khalils.

Here, Khalil met with Settlement Worker Ramla Alsinawi. “I assessed his needs and started to help Khalil navigate life in Thorncliffe Park,” she explains. This included tackling immediate challenges, such as securing affordable housing, health care and financial assistance, and completing proper documentation. And, the biggest hurdle, learning English. “That has been the hardest thing,” says Khalil. With Ramla’s help, he managed to prepare for his family’s arrival.

After months apart, the Khalils finally reunited. “We were so happy and excited to be together again,” recalls Najwa. Ramla, now a trusted ally, continued helping, enrolling the kids in school and connecting the family with furniture and food banks. Currently, she’s assisting the Khalils as they apply for permanent residency.

Today, the Khalils regularly access supports you make possible by giving to United Way. For starters, the family took part in the Welcome and Information for Newcomers (WIN) program, helping them integrate into their new school system and community. Khalil continues taking English classes and has started career training. Najwa also attends English classes. Alaa, age 10, and Ibrahim, age 9, are in an after-school program helping them with homework and English. And Aya, age 13, attends two programs helping build up her confidence and self-esteem through personal development. Slowly, but surely, the family is figuring things out.

Not that it’s been easy. The Khalils miss their extended family. And news of ongoing conflict in Syria is a reminder of what they've escaped. But, with his English skills rapidly improving, Khalil’s determined to find employment. “I feel optimistic for our future,” he says. “I want all of us to succeed. I want our children to go to university and get good jobs.” And Najwa’s goal? “I want all three of them to become doctors.”

With generous support like yours, the Khalils are on the path to turning these goals into future achievements.