I am Lailah, a young Palestinian living in Canada with my mother and five younger siblings and this is my story.
My grandparents were forced to leave Palestine in the wake of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. They were stripped of their home and nationality and placed in Al-Shati Camp at the Gaza Strip. I grew up with stateless people like myself in a one bedroom home cramped with seven of us, with no imagination of streets, gardens, trees or flowers. My father – a truck driver— worked 14 hours a day to make enough money to feed us. Ever since I was a little girl, I planned my escape from this misery so that I could have a house with a kitchen and my own bedroom with walls just like the ones I saw on TV. I was studying at Birzeit University when one day, my father gathered my mother and my four younger siblings to tell us that we needed to leave in two days to go to Lebanon where he had arranged for us to go to Canada. He would accompany us later as soon as he found safe accommodations for my grandparents. That night, I walked around the camp, stood outside my house for hours and watched my father sleep because I was not sure if I would see him again.
We arrived in Lebanon at another refugee camp cramped with stateless people like us. My mother then found out she was pregnant. A few days later, we met the man that my father had arranged for us to meet before going to Canada. After a four-month long journey on foot, on the back of cattle trucks, and finally by airplane, we arrived in Calgary. We were told that we would get our permanent residency status soon; and thereafter, we would get welfare and healthcare and my mother would be able to deliver at a hospital. As my mother gave birth, the hospital bills piled high but we were over the moon with the arrival of my youngest brother, Abdullah. Weeks turned into months and months turned into years. I felt so helpless, unable to work because I had no work permit, and I watched my mother’s health deteriorate.
We still had no status in Canada, so I started cleaning people’s houses to support my mother and siblings, instead of pursuing my dream of becoming a journalist. One day, I saw an ad by National Zakat Foundation on Facebook. They helped me pay for our rent and food so we could pay off the hospital bills with my cash jobs. I am hopeful that one day I will become a Canadian and go to university and pursue my dreams.
Thank you for helping me, my mom and my brothers and sisters. May Allah bless you and your families in the hereafter and this dunya.
Love and Duas,