Today we feature a guest writer, Cat Cooke, Marketing and Content Manager, from Miles4Migrants. You may remember from when co-founder, Seth Stanton, shared a story with us about how Aeroplan miles helped a family. Now Cat is sharing another story with us on how frequent flyer miles and credit card points helped a refugee find a new home in Canada! Thank you for your time Cat!
It was that life-altering week in March when the whole world seemed to change. Over the span of one short week, borders rapidly closed, travel halted, and the world moved indoors.
But thanks to donated frequent flyer miles, Ibrahim, a Palestinian refugee, boarded a plane just in time to reach a place he’d never truly had before: home.
Ibrahim was born and raised in Lebanon but has never held citizenship of any country. He’s Palestinian, the third generation of his family to live in Lebanon, and is a refugee, like 5.5 million Palestinians across the Middle East.
Ibrahim took a big risk. He set out to study nursing, even though Palestinians are prohibited in most cases from legally working in healthcare professions, and was among the lucky few able to secure a coveted position at a hospital.
One job, however, wasn’t enough to support himself and his wife. Palestinians are systematically underpaid compared to Lebanese citizens. He took a position at another hospital in 2017 and was working 16-24 hours each day.
Ibrahim and his wife lived with precarious status in Lebanon. They were unable to plan for their futures, to access many public services, or to earn decent wages. The couple even lived separately, with their own families, because they couldn’t afford their own home.
Ibrahim registered with Talent Beyond Boundaries, a nonprofit that pairs skilled refugees with employers in need of their expertise. After many rounds of interviews, Ibrahim received a job opportunity with Closing the Gap Healthcare, a “designated” employer under a Canadian pilot program that attracts and retains talent to Atlantic Canada. The region faces an aging population and acute shortages in the healthcare sector, and they could use Ibrahim’s medical background. They couldn’t get Ibrahim to Halifax fast enough to begin work– but it would be another year and a half due to visa processing timelines before Ibrahim could relocate.
Finally, just weeks before borders closed amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Ibrahim and his wife were granted entry in the country. Unable to easily afford a flight and with mounting pressure to get to Canada quickly before borders shut, Talent Beyond Boundaries turned to Miles4Migrants.
Miles4Migrants is a nonprofit that uses donated frequent flyer miles to help people impacted by war, persecution, or disaster reunite with family members and start new beginnings in new homes. The organization partners with other nonprofits to identify refugees, asylees, asylum-seekers, and their immediate family members who have legal approval to travel but cannot afford airfare.
Miles4Migrants donors generously offered their frequent flyer miles to help pay for Ibrahim and his wife’s tickets, and the nonprofit’s booking team worked quickly to secure flight tickets for the couple.
It was not an easy start in a new country: The couple faced two weeks in strict quarantine, government office closures, and all the challenges that come with renting an apartment and starting-up in lockdown. But they are settling into a new routine in their home in Halifax.
Ibrahim’s days are now filled with patient visits. Some are elderly and others have profound physical needs. He isn’t working directly with COVID-19 patients, but he and his team are keeping at-risk patients healthy and avoiding hospitalization or long-term care homes, where the risk of exposure is pronounced. Ibrahim is doing what he was trained to do. He’s still working around the clock, but now he’s paid a good salary and supported by a compassionate team.
Ibrahim is a permanent resident of Canada and will be eligible to apply for citizenship in just three years. Canadian citizenship will be his first.
Miles4Migrants has a big goal of raising 5 million miles in June in honor of World Refugee Day. Donate your frequent flyer miles and credit card points to help refugees, asylees, and asylum-seekers reunite with loved ones and find a safe place to call home.