Kitchener-Waterloo

Syrian newcomer who refused social assistance, finds job in Cambridge

One month after sharing his story with CBC News, Tareq Ibrahim landed a job in his field, with Cambridge insurance company Gore Mutual.

'My life's completely changed,' says Syrian refugee Tareq Ibrahim

Tareq Ibrahim speaks at an event in Elora hosted by Under the Same Sky, a group in Centre Wellington. (Under the Same Sky/Facebook)

One month after sharing his story with CBC News, Tareq Ibrahim has landed a job in his field with Cambridge insurance company Gore Mutual.

Ibrahim arrived in Kitchener in September 2015, but despite being fluent in English and having worked as a finance manager for multi-national corporations, he struggled to find work that matched his skills. 

Companies wanted to see Canadian experience, Ibrahim told CBC's The Morning Edition in December. 

Ibrahim's story resonated with people, in particular because he refused to apply for Ontario Works or accept government support until he exhausted his savings. 

Catherine Leclair heard that interview on her drive to work.

He's earned this position- Catherine Leclair, vice president of human resources, Gore Mutual

"[I] thought it was very compelling," said Leclair, the vice president of human resources for Gore Mutual. 

"But along with it was that sense of honour he has, and his integrity."

She said she arrived at work that morning to learn the company's chief financial officer had also heard the interview, and together they decided to reach out to Ibrahim. 

Not given job out of charity

Though Gore Mutual heard about their new employee through less conventional means, Leclair is quick to dispel the idea Ibrahim was given the job out of charity. 

"He's earned this position," Leclair said. "He has a very good finance background, he was in senior roles previously."

The job is a three-month contract to help the company with its end of fiscal year accounting, reporting and billing. It's a good fit, but not perfect.

"It's a good start to show the people the skills that I have," Ibrahim said. "And maybe we can take it from there."

At the very least, the job gives him the Canadian experience he said other companies have told him he needs – as well as renewed purpose.

"I'm so excited. You can't imagine the feeling, leaving your home every morning to attend work for a purpose," Ibrahim said. 

"My life's completely changed."

About the Author

Jackie Sharkey

Associate Producer, CBC KW

Jackie Sharkey has worked all over the country with the CBC over the past decade, including Kelowna, Quebec City and Rankin Inlet, NU. She frequently reports on the arts and is particularly interested in stories where consumer and environmental issues intersect.

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