“My biggest hope is to have a community based social safety net for refugees and low-incoming newcomers so no one is left behind. I also hope to have a society without bigotry and hatred especially towards Muslims and other minorities.”
Saima is 39, a community activist, community organizer, and does community outreach. Her proudest achievement is, “helping thousands of Syrian newcomers settle in Canada.” She continued, “I was able to mobilize hundreds of Calgarians to welcome the refugees warmly upon arrival with smiles, stuffies, chocolates, and flowers. Our group helped people start up their life with housing, food hampers, clothing, furniture, and the necessities of life. We supported the newcomers with translating and practicing English and find their way around town. We enrich their lives by offering our friendship and helping them learn their new surroundings by taking them to the zoo, to the mountains, by reading to their kids and inviting them over to share meals. We help them find employment and launch their businesses. In turn they enrich our lives by hosting us in their home for food and conversations about ways how they can become nation builders.” Unsurprisingly she told me her favourite place to find herself is “in a Syrian newcomer family’s living room during the late evening listening to stories about their lives.” When I asked Saima what a fun fact about herself is she told me, “I love to travel to far-away places alone especially those countries with a long history of conflict. Not sure if that is fun but I get a high from visiting places that you read about on the news.”
How do you think you are perceived within your city?
“Some call me the “Iron Lady”. I think people perceive me as strong, outspoken, fearless and tireless organizer.”
What has been the most challenging experience of your life and why?
“The most challenging experience has been to dispel lies about myself. Some people find it difficult to understand my drive to fight for injustice and to help others comes from a pure ethnical and compassionate point of view and without any hidden agenda. People spread lies that I do it for fame or attention or political advantage. It becomes a challenge to dispel these lies. So I decided to face them head on when I can but not waste too much time on it and go on full speed with the community building.”