Nuhaa's Story

New Beginnings

A new country that opened hearts and doors and gave her the support needed to dream of the life she can build.

Strawberry bubble gum, the colour pink, Peter Rabbit. Those are just a few of Nuhaa’s favourite things. She’s a pretty typical eight-year-old except for this: she’s lived through a war and moved half way around the world to a strange new country.


A bomb landed on the roof of Nuhaa’s home rattling the walls and blowing out windows. “My house was damaged and my kids were very scared,” says Frial, Nuhaa’s mother. There were armed men in the streets of the town they lived in. Nuhaa remembers this.

For a short time, the family found a measure of peace in Jordan – but the family suffered discrimination, and needed to move once again, this time to Canada.

The family settled in Surrey, which is home to a large number of Canadian newcomers. Over half of all government assisted refugees that arrive in BC have settled in the city. In 2016, children like Nuhaa made up 25 percent of the almost 1,800 new arrivals.

“Nuhaa felt very sad,” her mom says. “It was very difficult for her at first. She couldn’t communicate with people.”

“I was scared nobody wanted to play with me and nobody wanted to be my friend because I didn’t speak English,” Nuhaa says.

Many kids across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley are vulnerable and isolated – whether by language, poverty, developmental or other issues. They need connection and support.

Vulnerability can take many forms. And right now vulnerable kids are still lingering on after-school wait lists.

The right connection could save their lives. Could it be you?

A new beginning right in the neighbourhood

Fortunately for Nuhaa, a neighbour told her mom about a United Way’s School’s Out Program, which provides after-school programming for new Canadian and refugee children who – while still being typical kids – are often behind in their schooling.

The program, which runs from September to June, helps kids build lasting friendships, connections to their community and teaches helpful life skills. They also receive nutritious meals and snacks. With the support of mentors like Sam, a former program participant, they are getting the support they need to build the connections and skills that will help them grow up to become successful and engaged community members.

“We want kids to feel comfortable in speaking English and being able to write because that’s where every subject starts. And being able to excel in a subject means being comfortable with speaking English and reading and writing,” says Jamie Kopp, Programs Manager.

“We want to talk about things like emotions and how to express yourself. We do a check-in so kids can feel okay to share…where they may not get an opportunity to do that at school or at home with their family,” says Jamie. “That one-on-one attention is invaluable for a child to know that they matter, that they are important.”

And it works.

“Nuhaa likes to come here and to play with other kids. She has a lot of fun and she learns a lot of important information,” Frial says.

“This program will make you feel better because everyone is kind,” Nuhaa says.

Nuhaa is lucky to have people like Sam and a program that cares about her. Not enough kids have the after-school programs and other supports they need. Almost one in 10 Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley kids doesn’t think a single adult cares about them

“This program will make you feel better because everyone is kind.”

Local love in action

When we show our local love, we can improve lives and be proud of the communities we call home.

The success of programs like School’s Out can be seen in its volunteers. Sam is a past participant who is now giving back. A newcomer to Canada from Uganda, she has been a key part of helping Nuhaa become comfortable in her new home.

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