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Life has not always been easy for Hussein Al Majid — he has seen the horrors of unrest in a variety of places.
It was a very close call in Baghdad, Iraq, that forced him to make some tough decisions and ultimately led him to Canada.
“I was working as a driver, when I was out with my boss. We were out one day and the car was shot up, with my boss in the back,’’ Al Majid said.
“He wasn’t hit, but one bullet went through the door and hit me under my left arm and went up into my neck and stayed there,’’ he added, pointing to the scar where the bullet was removed from the right side of his neck.
He was taken to a hospital and treated, but he knew he could only stay for a short period of time, since he was undocumented as a citizen and feared he could be seized by the government and executed.
“I can’t reveal where I am from, so after three days, I checked myself out,’’ he said.
A month later, he and his aunt were on the move, leaving Iraq and going into Syria, where they stayed for two weeks and then headed to Cypress and Turkey, where they lived as refugees for three years, from 2009-12.
“Coming here, my life is no different for me. The safety of my family and for my children was all that mattered." — Hussein Al Majid
His parents had settled in Iraq after leaving Palestine as refugees many years earlier. This made Al Majid a Palestinian by birth, though he was born and raised in Iraq.
He didn’t hold any citizenship papers for Iraq and was not able to work in his chosen profession — history teacher — so he was forced take what jobs he could get.
That led him to the job as a driver and getting shot.
By 2012, Europe was in a financial downturn.
Al Majid had married in 2011 and he and his wife, Haneen, had their first child, Ali, shortly afterward.
Because he had no papers, he was unable to work and help support his family, though he desperately wanted a normal life for them.
Soon he was on the move again, this time settling in Malaysia with his two brothers, his wife and son, and his aunt. Then they migrated to Indonesia, where they stayed from 2012-15.
They achieved refugee status and lived in a camp, a place with a strong United Nations presence, with people working on behalf of all the refugees.
“A man came to the camp and did a register. I waited for a review of my situation and once that was complete, I was sent out of camp,’’ he said.
“I was sent to Canada, first landing in Toronto and then directly to Newfoundland.”
He arrived in Canada in November 2015 with his wife, two children and the aunt who had raised him since his parents died in 2002 and 2003.
“Coming here, my life is no different for me. The safety of my family and for my children was all that mattered,’’ he said.
“I needed to find a country that would take me, and we were all lucky to come here.”
Training for trades
Like most immigrants, language was a barrier in getting established when he arrived in Newfoundland in 2015.
Hussein’s family has now grown to four children and includes son Ali and three daughters — Jumana, Shaima and Razan.
He is the major caregiver for his aunt and his family, and this sometimes pulls him away from his studies. He was trained as a teacher in Iraq, and now is hoping he can just finish a basic education course at the Rabbittown Learners Program in St. John’s and be fluent enough in English to get into a trades course. He hopes to become a drywall installer, a job he says will allow him to earn enough money to raise his four children, and support his wife and his aunt.
"Things are good here and I hope to stay here for my life as I look to a better future for my family.” — Al Majid.
“I need to get a job. I loved to teach, but I would have to go back to school for four more years here to be able to teach again, so I am working part time right now as a cleaner trying to make something good for my family,” he said.
“I need a good job with a good salary and benefits. I have four children and if one of them is sick, it costs a lot of money.”
His youngest child has medical problems, including a club foot, kidney issues and a heart condition.
His journey to Newfoundland took six years, and Al Majid said he likes the way of life here and he wants to stay.
“Nobody bothers us here,” he said. “Many people ask us where we are from, have conversations with us, try to help us.
“It is not like other places we see on the news where there are problems with people not liking us as immigrants. Things are good here and I hope to stay here for my life as I look to a better future for my family.”