A year ago, I couldn’t have imagined the direction my life took. My childhood dream was to be a lawyer, and finally, that dream became a reality when I started law school. After my graduation, I looked for ways to give back to my community by improving the social and political conditions in my country. I started volunteering with women and children in shantytowns located on the hillsides. I wanted the kids to have a better future and keep them away from the criminal organizations with strong political connections in the area. I tried to show that crime and violence-ridden life isn’t it, we can find other ways of being.

The leaders of one of the country’s notorious criminal organizations were furious about what I was teaching. They threatened my life, and I was forced to flee my beloved country. I left everything behind. My girlfriend, family, and my chow-chow, along with my lifestyle as a middle-class lawyer. I decided Canada was my best hope for safety. I knew that Canada had a fair refugee process and respects human rights agreements that guarantee protection for people in need of refuge.

I faced a targeted threat from the group, which forced me to do things I never thought I would. I couldn’t afford to wait and apply for a visa because I could have been killed at any moment. I was scared, distraught, and anxious and eventually came to Canada illegally with only $74 in my pocket.

I knew someone who lived in Kitchener, and they connected me to the Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support (MCRS), an organization that helps people with their refugee claims.

The day I arrived in Kitchener, I walked up to the stairs to the MCRS office with no knowledge of the refugee process in Canada. I asked for help. An MCRS caseworker went with me to the immigration office to make my claim (request protection), gave me a map of Kitchener and bus tickets. She also informed me about all the services MCRS provides. They guided me by helping me fill out the necessary forms, settle into the community, and gather evidence for my refugee hearing.

I started volunteering for the MCRS even though I was still going through the refugee process and didn’t know if I would be accepted or deported. But, I wanted to help those who were in similar situations as me.

After eight months of being in Canada, I finally had my refugee hearing to determine my case. It took five stressful hours of answering the judge’s questions about every little detail of my life, reliving each painful memory. My lawyer was in the middle of asking another question when the judge said, “Stop! No more questions are necessary. I approve your case. You are a person in need of protection.” I was stunned, I couldn’t believe it! I looked at my lawyer, and he nodded at me. This was the most important, and emotional moment of my life. I was finally safe!

For me, the MCRS was like a light in the darkness. This organization is very helpful to people like me who are seeking protection. When you’re in a foreign country where you don’t know anything with no friends or relatives to help you, life can be very difficult. If MCRS hadn’t been there to support me, I don’t know if my refugee claim would have been accepted without them.

My plan now is to improve my English, find a job in an organization that helps refugees settle in Canada. I also want to do a master’s in political science but in the meantime, I am going to be volunteering at the MCRS to help people like me in need of protection.