Our Journey to Canada
Meet Celine Hajjar, a proud Lebanese-Canadian. Celine is a Merchant Success Manager at Shopify, a Career Coach with Coaching with Celine and The3Skills, and is the founder of NAFSI. She holds a Bachelor in Health Sciences with a Minor in Communications from the University of Ottawa and is extensively involved in her community through volunteer initiatives. While reflecting on her family’s immigration story this is what she had to say:
My parents migrated to Canada shortly after they got married. With the turbulence and uncertainties of Lebanon, they knew that they wanted to give their future children more security. Leaving behind their home, family & friends, only to start from the ground back up again.
My father found work with his brother. They’ve had their fair shots at multiple businesses before they landed the one that my father is still running today. He is my absolute best friend, by the way. I am so grateful to be able to confide in him & speak to him about anything.
As for my mother, she gave me my hustle, my independence. Upon immigrating to Canada, my mother decided to pursue education AGAIN - because Canada didn’t accredit her previous degree. Talk about resiliency. I even wrote this lovely poem to summarize her work ethic:
She immigrated to a country for the sake of her unborn children.
She left her family and loved ones in a selfless act for her soon-to-be family’s future.
She left a high-paying job in her home country, to redo university again in her new country.
She worked and studied full time.
She had two babies under 2, full-time.
All at the same time.
She fought for her value. And made an impact on her career.
She did it on her own. No shortcuts. No favors. Just hard work & consistency
While living in chronic pain & a major disability.
And teaching her children to be strong, independent women, too.
& that is why, everything I achieve, is thanks to you.
That’s my mama in a nutshell. With that said, it was a no-brainer that I’d pursue a career & work ethic that made her proud. Since I was a little girl, my parents fueled my sister & I’s creativity. They encouraged our arts and fed our interests. It was not a surprise that they supported my journey to Dubai & eventually when I launched my 2 businesses.
I launched NAFSI after working in the fashion industry for a few years. This shed light on the detrimental impacts it may have on the environment and our garment workers. And if no one was going to do anything about it, I knew I would. So, in 2018, I packed my bags again and flew to farms and factories across the Middle East - on the hunt to find a supplier that sources sustainability and provides ethical work environments. And just like that, NAFSI was born. It only made sense to use the word NAFSI, an Arabic word for myself, my soul, because change starts from within. And that’s what NAFSI aims to do - which is why we plant 1 tree per item sold, and everything is always sustainably sourced & ethically made.
I was successful in its launch, NAFSI has been featured in reputable magazines such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, and so much more. But the world has a way of throwing curve balls and making you do back flips when you least expect it. Only 2 years ago, I ended up at my lowest, my most broke, my weakest. I can’t say the last few years have been easy, but they have helped me land a career I am proud of, and a second business that came naturally. Here’s a short poem I wrote at the end of 2020 that summarizes these feelings:
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Don't let the internet rush you, no one is posting their failures - they say.
Well, internet, here are some of mine from the last 6 months:
I'm the most broke I've ever been,
First time in my life that I battle anxiety,
Lost people I never thought I'd lose,
Been betrayed, lied to & lied about,
Been at my ultimate lowest.
I've faced a thousand no's, and a million more are on the way.
I just choose to see the good:
I'm the most broke I've ever been - but rich in spirit.
First time in my life I battle anxiety - but can now relate to the illness that affects millions.
Lost people I never thought I'd lose - but that's what helps you Grow & appreciate those still here.
Been betrayed, lied to & lied about - & realized not everyone thinks like you.
Been the lowest I've ever been - but got to see who's there for me.
Today, I’m a proud Shopify employee, and I coach unfulfilled employees who want to transition their career paths. I utilize all my learnings and apply them to my business and share it with my clients with the hopes that they won’t need to make the same mistakes I have.
A tough few years, but they’ve surely made me resilient. And where do you suppose I learned that from?