Skip to content
Rate article
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars
Be the first to rate
Share article

Today is World Refugee Day, a day designated by the United Nations to raise awareness about the more than 70 million refugees and forcibly displaced persons worldwide and promote actions towards solutions.

As a part of World Refugee Day, we’re bringing you the story of Munifa Ahmed, an Ethiopian refugee from Saudi Arabia who is forging a path as an entrepreneur in Canada, having arrived in 2017.

Often, the stories you might hear about refugees fall into one of two categories. First, there are the success stories: the refugee who flees conflict to seamlessly launch a new and successful life in Canada; the Canadian dream, so to speak. Then, there are the heartbreaking stories, those that elicit sympathy and pity, and promote global action. But what about the stories that fall in between?

Munifa’s story is undoubtedly a story of success, but success built by overcoming barrier after barrier, through perseverance and despite systemic challenges.

Munifa’s story reminds us that the refugee experience continues long after the border is crossed and the hearings are over, and inspires us to engage critically with how we can better support refugees in Canada, both at an individual and a community level.

Who is Munifa Ahmed?

Munifa is an exuberant young professional, living in Surrey, and working as a digital analyst. When I spoke with her she was animated, excitedly running over the details of her life on the west coast. Underpinning her lightheartedness is a deep passion and determination, the work ethic that has helped her to carve out her professional life in British Columbia. Munifa identifies as a global citizen. She’s Ethiopian, but was born and raised in Saudi Arabia and has lived in many locations across the Sahara Desert and the horn of Africa, before coming to Canada. “Back in Saudi I was a very ambitious girl.” Munifa told me. “I was working hard for my school. I adopted these dreams and ambitions from these movies I watched, from Hollywood. I always dreamed about being educated and making an impact on the world, and so being here honestly I feel truly for the first time, home.”

Before finding “home” on Canada’s west coast, Munifa’s first port of call in Canada was Vancouver’s bigger and brasher older sibling, Toronto, where she waited with a growing number of refugee claimants in shelters dotted around the city.

When I asked her about the move from Toronto to Vancouver, she described what it was like for her in Toronto. “There’s so much competition,” she states. “Like, imagine: there’s a job position and there are more than 10,000 people applying, and although I was able to finally find a job, like a good medical secretary job, it was a rabbit hole. It was just paycheque-to-paycheque and I wasn’t able to continue my education.”

In June of 2018, Munifa packed up again and made the move to Vancouver, where she has been able to find employment opportunities, but again, only through significant effort. She identified the need for tech workers and enrolled in courses. “I took a program, a bootcamp in coding. It was challenging, but I didn’t just graduate and get a job, I had to take more courses, I had to network a lot and eventually I took another program at another community centre, and that is what secured my job.”

She has now been working at Apples & Oranges analytics startup as a digital analyst and marketer since May 2019. “If you’re a woman, go and take a couple weeks in a tech space, in design or in coding, or anything that will help you excel.” she advised, “I became a digital analyst after maybe two or three months of courses. People who are graduates from college are not able to find the job I’m doing.”

Her new job isn’t the only measure of success in her life. Outside her role as a digital analyst, Munifa has also been working on her own project, an app that she plans to use to combat climate change.

SmartMeat App: A vision for the future

Munifa refers to herself as a “multipotentialite,” a person with many different interests, passions, and pursuits in life. One of her current pursuits is the SmartMeat App. The app, which is still in development, allows users to become more aware of the environmental impacts of meat consumption and promotes collective community action towards a more sustainable future.

One of Munifa’s most impressive qualities is her constant drive to improve herself. “You have to always build on your skills.” she told me, reflecting on a business incubator program she participated in at Simon Fraser University. “When I moved here I also wanted to have community involvement work, so I applied for this program at SFU called Beyond Borders. Basically it was a space where immigrants can come together and build solutions for challenges they face.”

It was at Beyond Borders that Munifa developed the idea for the SmartMeat App.

When Munifa spent time in Vancouver’s Stanley Park she developed a connection to nature, a connection that was trickier to nurture in the Sahara of her youth.

“Stanley Park is where the heart of my passion started.” she states. “I was conscious about the environment and other stuff before in my life, but I never had the interest to be a climate advocate. I think the thing that rooted me with Stanley Park was the age. It’s something that has been here for thousands of years.” It was this connection to nature in one of Vancouver’s bucolic parks that inspired her to dedicate her time and seemingly endless energy to raise awareness about global climate change.

With the SmartMeat App, Munifa hopes to inspire environmental consciousness, compelling users to make more sustainable consumer choices as we move through our lives. If you want to support the SmartMeat App, you can sign up on Munifa’s website to receive updates and participate in the application’s beta testing phase later this year.

What can we learn from Munifa’s story?

Though it’s easy to look at Munifa’s time in Canada and see nothing but her accomplishments, she has had to overcome many barriers to arrive at where she is today.

“There have been a lot of ups and downs. When you come to Canada, you think that’s it; you come with this mentality that you can go back to work or to school.”

However, it wasn’t as easy as Munifa had imagined before arriving. She described struggling with the small things, finding a roommate, and figuring out which neighbourhood would be safe for her, “For me it was like layers and layers of barriers. All these small things that people take for granted because they are living here, they don’t really feel it, but we feel it because we are starting from scratch.”

Despite the fact that she encountered these barriers, Munifa is happy to be in Canada. “I’m really lucky to be a woman in Canada, but I also see Canada moving forward, so there are small things that will add so much to refugee settlement in Canada.”

Munifa has been able to overcome the barriers she’s encountered. She arrived in Canada with an understanding that in order to succeed, she would need to further her education to find a good job. She worked, she studied, she connected with others and built a network.

Munifa’s success is built on her resilience and perseverance, but it is worth noting that many refugees who arrive in Canada struggle to overcome these barriers. Some refugees do not have the language skills to look for work when they first arrive in Canada. Some refugees land in Canada with their children, and they cannot balance working with studying and still find time for their family.

While it may be tempting to look at Munifa’s story as proof that refugees in Canada can succeed if they just persevere and remain resilient, perhaps on World Refugee Day we should reflect on those who cannot overcome barriers to success. What can we do as individuals, as community members, and as a country, to better support refugees and help them to fully participate and succeed in Canadian society?

I asked Munifa what advice she would give to other refugees coming to Canada.

“My biggest advice would be the mindset. The mindset about different things. There were different mindsets that I was able to acquire when I moved here. One of them was being okay with diversity, and when I mean diversity, I don’t mean how people are diverse, but being diverse in life.”

Munifa believes that refugees can prepare for Canada by mentally readying themselves for the different challenges they’ll face. Hopefully, as newcomers work through those challenges and Canadians work to dismantle barriers, more and more refugees will find success and a sense of home in Canada.

Munifa was connected to Moving2Canada by the Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia. ISSBC recommended Munifa for a mentorship with Moving2Canada founder, Ruairi Spillane, after he won the award for Best Immigrant Entrepreneur at the 2019 Small Business BC Awards.

To learn more about Munifa’s projects, please visit her website.

About the author

Dane Stewart

Dane Stewart

He/Him
Canadian Immigration Writer
Dane is an award-winning digital storyteller with experience in writing, audio, and video. He has more than 7 years’ experience covering Canadian immigration news.
Read more about Dane Stewart
Citation "“I feel truly for the first time, home” | Munifa Ahmed’s journey to Canada." Moving2Canada. . Copy for Citation

Advertisement

  • Canada Abroad team

    Canada Abroad

    Canada Abroad is a transparent Canadian immigration consultancy with advice you can trust. Led by Deanne Acres-Lans (RCIC #508363), the team delivers professional, regulated, and efficient service.

  • The Doherty Fultz Immigration team staff members

    Doherty Fultz Immigration

    Led by Anthony Doherty (RCIC #510956) and Cassandra Fultz (#514356), the Doherty Fultz team uses their 40+ years of experience to empower you towards settling in Canada.

  • Perez McKenzie team 6

    Perez McKenzie Immigration

    Led by Jenny Perez (RCIC #423103), Perez McKenzie Immigration is a Canadian immigration consultancy based in British Columbia, with offices in Vancouver and Whistler.

Our Partners

Get your immigration questions answered by an expert

Speak with a regulated Canadian immigration consultant to help plan your immigration. Moving2Canada is happy to recommend a handful of exceptional consultants.
  • Smiling young woman at a laptop

    Find the best immigration program for you

    Take our free immigration quiz and we'll tell you the best immigration programs for you!

  • Chef at restaurant spooning vegetables

    Get matched to job opportunities

    Get matched to job opportunities from Canadian employers who are seeking to hire people with your skills.

  • Access our immigration roadmaps

    Our immigration roadmaps will teach you the basics of Express Entry, study permits, and more! Take control of your own immigration process.

Exclusive

Unlock exclusive resources with a free account.

Create a Moving2Canada account to get the resources you need, tailored to your profile. Get matched with the best immigration programs & job offers, and access exclusive events & resources.