Meet Youshaa El-Abed, a proud Lebanese-Canadian. Youshaa recently graduated from the University of Windsor with an Honours in Biological Sciences with Thesis and was awarded the President’s Medal at convocation. Youshaa is bilingual, attended the 8th annual United Nation’s University Scholars Leadership Symposium in Bangkok, Thailand, was the President of the UWindsor Chapter of Friends of Doctors Without Borders, and served as the Faculty of Science Board of Director. While reflecting on his family's immigration story this is what he had to say:
I admire all the parents that bravely leave everything they’ve ever known behind to build a better future for their loved ones. My parents’ story is no different. Both were born in a small village in Northern Lebanon. My father’s family of twelve lived in a two-room apartment. Living standards in the village were not ideal, which resulted in two of his siblings passing away at a young age. My mother’s family of eight also lived in a similar size apartment. Let me explain my parents’ journey by first speaking about my father.
My father truly had a passion for learning and knew that gaining a strong educational background would be the ideal solution in order to support the family. Unfortunately, he was not able to accomplish what he was striving for. Affording school was too much of a burden on the family, resulting in him dropping out of school in the fifth grade. At the age of 10, he worked whatever job he could find to support the household. In his early 20’s, he rationalized that this endless cycle of working terrible paying jobs for extremely long hours was not enough to support his family.
He made up his mind that he was going to leave Lebanon and go to the country he always wanted to live in, Canada. Upon arrival, at 23, my dad found himself alone in a country with minimal ability to speak English and limited funds to support himself. He eventually landed a job working in a factory. He devoted as many hours as humanly possible to work there, often putting his loved ones before him. Being granted only minimum wage earnings for his efforts, he would work 7 days a week, with shifts ranging from12-16 hours. He would keep just what was needed to cover basic expenses and send the rest back home.
My mother, who was friends with all of my father’s siblings, would always see my father when he visited. At the age of 27, my father proposed to my mother, who was 20 years old at that time. My father returned to Canada to continue work and my mother followed him a year later. Immediately following her arrival, my parents got married and I was born a year later. Although my parents had very little, they were still very thankful to be in a country like Canada, which provided them with all the opportunities in the world to build a family.
Fast forward 21 years (to today) and I am joined by three other siblings. But, some things never change. My parents still work just as hard as they ever did. We still keep just enough to cover expenses and try to assist as many people as we can with any additional funds. As cliché as it sounds, my parents are and will forever be my role models. I don’t think they can ever understand how appreciative I am for all of their sacrifices. I see a lot of them when I self-reflect. They have taught me to always be there to lend a helping hand, to put all my efforts into all of my tasks, and to always be grateful for all that I have.
Hearing my parents tell me that they are proud of me provides me with such a rewarding feeling. I want them to know that their sacrifices will never go unnoticed and that their hardships were all worth it. I frequently wonder how different my life would be if they were never granted entry into Canada. Immediately, my mind begins to race through a never-ending list of reasons to be thankful to be born a Canadian. I always look forward to finding new opportunities to give back to this nation as a token of appreciation for all that it has done for my family.