Hand Up Inspires Refugee’s Hope for Future

By Ron Fanfair

Ron Fanfair


51 Division

Hope for the future was one of the few things that Mohammad Qaseem Anwari and his family possessed after fleeing as refugees from Afghanistan in 2021 and landing in Toronto.

Bringing very few belongings to Canada, Anwari, his wife and four children, were one of the many refugees housed in hotels near the airport who benefited from donations of clothing and household items.

Days after their arrival, he met Toronto Police Constables Mustafa Popalzai and Farzhad Ghotbi, who along with the support of fellow police officers, local businesses and community partners, started Project Hope to collect donations for refugees. They have since collected more than $500,000 in goods.

“We first met him at the hotel and provided him with some donations,” recalled Popalzai, who was once a refugee himself in the summer of 2001, fleeing the Taliban regime in Afghanistan along with his family. “He later messaged us after spending the first night in his North York apartment, advising that he and his children were unable to sleep as they had no blankets, pillows and warm clothing. The weather was very cold and they slept with jackets on at night.”

Popalzai and Ghotbi soon after bought blankets, pillows, household items and a bed, delivering them to the home.

The officers’ generosity left Anwari awestruck.

“They were so kind and giving,” he said. “They really made us feel welcomed.”

After the officers provided him with Canadian Tire gift cards, he visited the retailer and was inspired to apply for a store near his home where he has worked ever since.

Prior to coming to Canada, Anwari was an interpreter for the Canadian military in Afghanistan for almost six years. The military provided training to Afghan police officers among their duties.

With some background in law enforcement, Popalzai and Ghotbi encouraged him to apply to Toronto Police Service.

“I am impressed by the way police officers do their work and want to be part of their organization,” said Anwari, who hopes to work as a Special Constable – who work in uniform roles providing court security, booking prisoners and other support functions to police operations.

Constable Ghotbi, who also came to Canada as a refugee from Iran, said Anwari is exactly who they were trying to help when they began collecting goods for refugees.

“His story is a fantastic one of hope and hard work and how both combined can make dreams come true,” said Ghotbi.


Three police officers walking with a man and three children
Qaseem Anwari and his children got a police escort on their walk to school by Sgt. Henry Dyck and Constables Murtaza and Mustafa Popalzai Photo: Brent Smyth


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