E-Volunteer Story: Sameer Hammad – Taking every opportunity to give back

When Sameer was a young man, he went to Turkey for a holiday. He was on his own and excited for his 10-day spree. But as soon as he got there, a thief stole all of his money. Stuck as a tourist with no one to turn to, he felt lost in a foreign land. When the family who owned the hotel learned about his predicament, they offered to return Sameer’s payment for his entire stay. They told him that he can send the payment later when he gets home. This act of trust and generosity made such an impact on him that he resolved that from then on, every time that he is presented with a chance to give back, he will do so.

This is what Sameer has been doing to this day. This is the spirit that powers the amazing volunteer work he has been providing for newcomers to Canada.

Giving is in his blood

Helping others is actually in Sameer’s blood. His grandfather served as a mayor of a city in their home country in 1948. It was his legacy to his family of educated professionals, engineers, and physicians to serve and give to whomever was in need. Today, many new Canadians owe Sameer a debt of gratitude for his tireless service.

As one of English Online’s most active e-volunteers for five years now, he dedicates 3-5 hours every week to teach English to new Manitobans. Knowing that English proficiency is essential to successful integration, Sameer sees to it that he is responsive and accommodating to his students. His unique style of mentorship focuses on results, prioritizing on each learner’s most immediate goals. But aside from EO learners, Sameer also takes on several students who are still in their home countries, sometimes teaching 2-3 learners during the weekends. He helps them prepare for life in Canada and to become proficient in English so that they’ll have a better chance of succeeding when they arrive. He does not limit extending his help to others – whether Arab, Jew, or whatever ethnic background or religion they belong to. He does all this for free.

When Sameer started getting questions beyond learning the English language from immigrants, he began thinking of expanding his range and reach. Going on social media was the logical choice because this is where most immigrants are connecting nowadays. Sameer launched The Arab Immigrants Facebook Page, FB group, and a YouTube channel where he posts useful articles, news, and links; answers questions; and produces videos featuring anything from overcoming culture shock to the qualifications recognition process. Just recently, he produced a series of interviews featuring successful newcomer entrepreneurs in Manitoba to share their formula for success. He also interviewed professionals who have undergone qualifications recognition to provide information and inspiration to newcomers who are about to go through the same path. In just a month’s time, The Arab Immigrants gained about 2,300 members (Note: Currently, in 2021, the group has more than 22,000 members).

“Canada is a wonderful country. It is truly a land of opportunity. I am happy to see that my children are thriving and learning to take charge and become leaders. So I want to see other people realize their goal to have a better life too. I consider it a privilege to be able to help out in any way I can and see more newcomers succeed in Canada.”

His newcomer journey

Sameer came to Manitoba in 2009. Just like any other immigrant, his own journey had its own share of challenges. However, many serendipitous events made it clear to him that moving to Canada was meant to happen. Initially, as a successful engineer based in Dubai, immigrating was not something he was planning on.

At that time, Sameer was at the top of his career with 30 years of experience as an electronics and communications engineer under his belt. His last job title in the UAE was Network and Operations Engineer at SamaCom Teleport Dubai, the largest teleport in the Middle East. He was also Technical Editor for a satellite and electronics magazine for more than 10 years. The only hitch was that, at that time, there were no opportunities for him and his family to become permanent residents, much less become citizens in Dubai. As luck would have it, Sameer met a Pakistani businessman who told him all about Canada. This started his research about immigrating and this eventually led to his application for a Canadian visa.

Sameer and his family were actually planning on living in Toronto when one of his relatives received a scholarship in Manitoba. Curious, he visited Manitoba and immediately liked the province’s vibe. “The lifestyle in Winnipeg is not rushed. It has a good pace. Everything is accessible especially for someone who hates driving. You can reach any place in an hour and a half or less,” he said. He returned to Dubai and together with his family, came back and settled in Manitoba.

Sameer brought his expertise to MB Hydro International where he became a project consultant for four and a half years. With the downsizing at MB Hydro, Sameer has taken a vacation (not really retiring, even when he’s in his 60s) and is now spending more time on his volunteer work.

Working with newcomers

Before working with MB Hydro, Sameer had to go through the qualifications recognition process in order to practice his profession despite having decades of professional expertise. “Like other newcomers, I thought that once I had the visa, I can come to Canada and immediately work in my field. But I was surprised,” he said. This is why qualifications recognition is among the topics he focuses on in his social media channels today. He is also the current vice president of the Arab Engineers Chapter which is part of EGM, (Engineers Geoscientists Manitoba, the regulating body of the profession in MB), which aims to assist engineer newcomers. The group was formed last year and has been spearheading various activities and social work. “I would like to note that our chapter is open to everyone, not only Arabs. They can join us as long as they are not a member of other chapters,” Sameer said.

According to him, the most common problem prospective immigrants and newcomers have is knowing where to look for information. He says that many are not familiar with the right website to go to and decipher which ones are reliable (like government websites). And when they do get website links, they need help in understanding the information. This points to the need for more accessible information as well as the importance of having a guide.

Aside from this, Sameer advises newcomers to improve their English before coming here. According to him, newcomers should strive to reach an IELTS score of at least 7. “This will help you immensely when looking for career and educational opportunities. If you need to go back to school for advancement or licensing, most educational institutions in Manitoba will accept you if you have a score of 7 and up,” he said. He also advises newcomers to avail of government programs. “When you land in Manitoba, join newcomer programs to help you in your settlement and career. There are free programs that can really help you get settled and get a job. You should also join English language programs to continually improve your English,” Sameer said. “I myself joined the local Toast Masters Club to learn public speaking”, he added.

Happy to help

Sameer has already earned the right to take life easy and just enjoy Canada. His children are well on their way to becoming successes on their own and as early as now, they are following their father’s example in being of service to others. But Sameer doesn’t seem to be slowing down as he continues to volunteer, create more helpful content on his social media channels and explore ways to be of service to others.

“Canada is a wonderful country. It is truly a land of opportunity. I am happy to see that my children are thriving and learning to take charge and become leaders. So I want to see other people realize their goal to have a better life too. I consider it a privilege to be able to help out in any way I can and see more newcomers succeed in Canada,” he said.
Check out Sameer’s informative videos here: The Arab Immigrants YouTube Channel
Join his Facebook Group to learn tips about settling in Manitoba: The Arab Immigrants.
To know more about the EGM Arab Engineers Chapter, email egm.arab.chapter@gmail.com or see their Facebook page.