My name is Suleiman and I am a Palestinian. I was born in 1945.
My family and I came to a refugee camp in Northern Lebanon when I was a child. At the beginning, we lived in tents, in the middle of the winter. Later, the United Nations started to build some shacks.
The camp was between the cold river and the Mediterranean Sea. I grew up in this camp from 1948 until 1969. With the support of the UN, I could go to high school in the city. This was a better opportunity for me. I used to play basketball during my lunch breaks. One day, my professor, David, stopped and talked to me, ‘’I see you like sports, do you want to do some volunteer work at the YMCA in Tripolis?’’
I said “yes.”
So I started to teach kids ten-twelve years old how to swim when I was about sixteen or seventeen years old.
Later David said,’’I am going to send you to the West Bank to help and build basketball courts in refugee camps’’
We were groups of young people and every trip took an average of three weeks. I did the work camps for four years.
After high school was over, I started to study Telecommunication in Southern Lebanon. I stopped volunteering for the YMCA and joined the local basketball team.
After I graduated, I moved back north and visited David. He sent me to one more mission for eighteen days. Local high schoolers joined us and together we built more basketball courts. The last time that I volunteered for them was in 1968.
One day I got the chance to get a visa to go to Canada. Before I could get a visa, I was asked if I knew anyone in Canada. I had a pen-pal for six years in Canada. So I took a whole box of letters (exchanged between the two of us) emptied them into a garbage bag and took them to the embassy.
They asked me if the family would be willing to pick me up from the airport. The family agreed after I asked them in a letter.
I came to Canada during Christmas Eve in 1969. When I arrived, the snow was up to my knees. My pen-pal’s parents invited me to stay with them. They had seven daughters and two sons. I volunteered and stay with them, for a couple of months. The dad showed me how to milk a cow and drive a tractor. The Canadian Department sponsored me during this time.
That is one reason why I like to help people now.
This story was written with information based on interviews.