Former refugee now provides refuge

By Michelle Palansky, Canadian Red Cross
Omar Abduhalli, a Canadian Red Cross volunteerOmar Abdullahi, a social worker who lives in Winnipeg, volunteers with the safety and wellbeing team of the Canadian Red Cross. He is working with evacuees impacted by the northern Manitoba wildfires.

Before coming to Canada, Omar and his family were refugees from the Somalian civil war. When he was about 10 years old, his family, including his six sisters and two brothers, fled Mogadishu for the Kenyan border. They lost each other in the chaos but reunited at the refugee camp in Liboi, Kenya.

“Red Cross volunteers were the first people who helped us refugees. We saw the big trucks, and they were giving us food and doing anything they could to help. That was my first connection to the Red Cross,” said Omar.

Omar is spending his summer vacation working with the evacuees from Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi First Nations. They are living in hotels in Winnipeg, and waiting for power and water to be restored so that they can return to their communities.

It’s hard for evacuees, explained Omar. They leave their home, their routine, and they are stuck in a hotel room with very little space to care for their children. They miss their home and they are in a large, unfamiliar city. As a former refugee, Omar finds his work with the evacuees particularly rewarding.

“There was a time when we didn’t have anything, no shelter, no food, but there were people that were there to support us. I think now that we have everything, that we’re lucky, I think it’s the time to ask how we can help.”

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