By: Ghofran Alyass
By Ghofran Alyass
Imagine being born and your parents being told you’re going to die in 24 hours, or maybe even less. That’s how I started my life.
I was born with an opening on my back, with half of my spine coming out, and the doctors at home in Baghdad had no solution for me. They called it spina bifida. Their easiest answer was “you’re going to die”, even though at the time I was living in one of the richest countries in the world, with highly-educated doctors. However, with the Iraq war going on, all those doctors had fled to safety.
Despite all this, I considered – and still consider - myself lucky. I had two things keeping me going: hope and my parents. My parents are my heroes. I managed to live for 10 years before I found the answer to my question: “where can I get the help I need to help me live a better life?”
I went to the United States to have surgery that was going to close the wound that I was born with; a procedure that was going to help me stay alive. I still remember having my first operation and my parents were told that I would be awake in a couple of hours. I recall it now and I break into both tears and laughter at the same time because I went into a coma for five days after a 14-hour surgery. I woke up and it felt like nothing had happened. I remember looking around the hospital room, then at my parents, and asking if I’d had the surgery yet.
My mom looked at me, smiled and answered in the most incredible way I could ever imagine: “put your hand on your back.” What was there? What would happen? When I did, my hand just slipped, both because it was shaking and because the curve that I was used to feeling and touching for 10 years was no longer there.
I was speechless. I didn’t know what to say, what to do, or how to feel, but neither a single action nor a word can ever describe that moment. It was the moment where I realized my life was about to change forever. The doctors said I would be able to leave the hospital two weeks later, but with so many complications, I left the hospital three months later.
My journey was bumpy, but I finally reached the end. I got the medical treatment I needed and immigrated to Canada. To me, Canada was the land of dreams, the land of opportunities, and the land of hope.
Canada was where I began school for the first time at age 11. This country was where I began high school at the age of 14. It was where I was given my first award for participating in my middle school choir. It was where I got my high school diploma; on a big stage where I was like everyone else and where isolation was no longer part of my vocabulary.
Canada was where I learned that life is not about being a billionaire; where wealth is not all about earning a lot of money. It’s where I became aware of how privileged I was living in this country. I was safe, I was fed, and I had access to free health care. Most importantly, I had a voice that was heard. This place of the strong and free is where I found that I had rights that those living in many other countries don’t.
All of this experience has led me to pursue a career as a Community Worker.
I believe that it is my calling to be the voice of others, who are perhaps less privileged. I have experienced injustice. I have experienced what it feels like to be in need of help and having to access it with difficulty. I believe that it is my mission to help those receive their rights and have a voice.
Above all else, injustice fundamentally bothers me. As a Community Worker, I have made it my goal to put an end to injustice and inequality, plus bring awareness to the importance of human rights. Even if I can’t completely change the world, I can make small changes in the lives of others.