Three portraits of young refugees in Canada

Young refugees in Canada share their stories. © UNHCR

Youth Ottawa and UNHCR Canada teamed up to share the powerful stories of young refugees in Ottawa

Edited by Hodman Ali in Ottawa, Canada

During the summer 2019, UNHCR Canada partnered with Youth Ottawa on a storytelling initiative supporting youth engagement.  Three refugee youth residing in Ottawa shared their inspiring personal stories of resettling in Canada. The stories touch upon the many adversities refugee youth overcome, and highlight their accomplishments. In sharing their stories, the refugee youth were animated with the hope that their experience will touch the hearts of Canadians across the nation and will encourage Canadian youth to mobilize together and become advocates for refugees. From the Syrian refugee student who volunteers by teaching swimming lessons at a community centre, to the Iraqi refugee entrepreneur who provides free haircuts in low-income neighbourhoods in Ottawa, and to the refugee student whose dream is to work for the Canadian Space Agency, join us as we meet these incredible young people.

Nour Abdullah

Nour Abdullah is a student at Carleton University. She is a swimmer, a basketball player, and loves to play the piano. She volunteers for a sports organization that supports children living in low-income housing and teaches Arabic to children in a language program. She was born and raised in the city of Aleppo and came to Canada as a refugee in 2017.

“In 2011, a tragic war broke out in Syria that destroyed every hope and dream I ever had. My father was kidnapped, I watched friends die, I was displaced from my home, and was forced to stop professional swimming for more than four years. In 2017, I moved to Canada to study. Since my second day in Ottawa, I began a lifeguarding course and upon graduation, began to teach swimming lessons at a community centre. I still have so many dreams to achieve and a lot more to learn! No matter how hard it may seem in the moment, as long as I have the courage to pursue my dreams, I know I will succeed.”

Ibrahim Musa

Ibrahim Musa is the Founder of the Cuts For Kids Foundation, which promotes dignity through access to equal opportunities by connecting youth to essential services – starting with a haircut or style. Ibrahim’s personal mission is to alleviate socio-economic barriers affecting youth, born out of his own experiences arriving in Canada in 2002 as a refugee from Iraq.

“I can remember the airplane, it was my first time on an airplane, we arrived in Ottawa in the middle of winter. We arrived in 2002 when it was a very dangerous time in Iraq, both at home and in Canada because people didn’t really have a good outlook on Iraqi, there was a lot of stigma around Arabs in general.”


Mouhamed is a student at Carleton University studying Aerospace Engineering. Mouhamad won the Academic Perseverance award by Youth Ottawa in 2018. He arrived in Canada in 2016 as a refugee from Syria.

“Due to the war in Syria, we first fled to Lebanon and I arrived in Canada in 2016. It was hard because we are a big family, we lived in a refugee camp for about three years. Right now I am a student at Carleton, my ultimate goal would be to work for the Canadian Space Agency”

For more information about Youth Ottawa, please visit their website > 

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