This story was written by the City of Edmonton.
Giving back to the community is something Fadhl, a Transit Peace Officer with Edmonton Transit Service, takes to heart. Born in Syria, he has been living in Canada for 18 years and in our city for just over one year. He remembers what it was like to be the “new kid on the block” and have to get used to a new culture. Almost two decades ago, his family fled the civil war in hopes of a better life here in Canada. Not knowing a word of English, Fadhl found comfort when he joined the Boys and Girls Club Big Brothers Big Sisters (BGCBigs). It gave him a sense of belonging and purpose that he says “truly shaped who he is today”.
As a young boy, he experienced first-hand the hardships of being in a brand new continent and having to learn a new language from scratch. He mentions, “I remember us thinking it was simply something we had to get through. We wanted to go to the grocery store and had to explain what we wanted and with the help of some sign language at the beginning, we got through it.” It took Fadhl a few months to learn the language and adapt to the new environment, but his experience is something he will never forget.
“I come from Syria, a country where people don’t trust law enforcement. When I first moved here, I noticed how people respected and trusted law enforcement and realized it is something that I wanted to get into. I wanted to help people, especially newcomers like myself, and change their perception of law enforcement,” he says and then immediately pauses to help a lost citizen and give him directions.
Fadhl lives by the motto that everything happens for a reason and says, “experiencing different cultures and having the ability to speak different languages really makes me appreciate what I went through and understand what every newcomer goes through too.”
As soon as he became an adult, he knew it was time for him to give back to the community and started volunteering with BGCBigs and giving immigrant teenagers that same sense of belonging and purpose he received when he was younger.
As a volunteer of BGCBigs, Fadhl now runs Boys Group as part of the All in for Youth Initiative at Spruce Avenue School, a weekly program that welcomes at-risk youth between the ages of 12 and 16 years old. Every week, Fadhl connects with the youth and teaches them the importance of education, healthy relationships, standing up against domestic violence, servant leadership and even explores their career options with them. He has become their mentor and confidant. Some youth are now even inquiring about becoming officers themselves!
One of the youth, Isaac says, “(Fadhl) treats you like a brother or son. I feel like I am part of his family.” He said prior to being in the program he spent a lot of time at home after school with not much to do. Since attending the program, Issac has been able to meet other teens like himself and learn from volunteers like Fadhl.
Fadhl has not only made a connection with the youth, but has also broken down the barriers between law enforcement and this demographic which can sometimes be hard to reach. He is not only relatable but also speaks their language, literally. He is fluent in Arabic and has been helping young Syrian refugees integrate to their communities by speaking his native language with them. He has made them feel at ease and comfortable in their own skin.
Fadhl is as an example of a community leader and builder. He thanks his sergeants and colleagues for their ongoing support.
To learn how you can become a volunteer with BGCBigs, click here.