By Ari Derin
MJRH Outreach Worker Mukhtar Nalayeh
Mukhtar Nalayeh came to Canada from Somalia with his parents and 11 siblings. At first, Mukhtar and his family needed help. “We came to this country with the shirts on our backs. We had to rely on social services. The social workers who worked with us were extremely helpful. They found us housing, schooling for the children and employment training for my parents.”
The experience of being a newcomer contributed to Mukhtar’s strong values of social justice. He describes how his childhood influenced his decision to serve his community. “We immigrated before the civil war, so my childhood was quite a happy one. In Somalia, there is a different kind of poverty. People struggle with droughts and scarce livestock. There are also similar issues like lack of access to proper nutrition.”
Mukhtar went back to school to become a community development worker. He now works at Ve’ahavta as an Outreach Worker. Mukhtar braves extreme weather and road conditions to help his clients. He describes braving Toronto’s cold weather alerts and icy roads as just another day at work.
“The most interesting aspect of my job is connecting with people,” he says. “I connect with and support 80 to 130 people per night. It’s rewarding to offer people the right services and resources and see their development.”
Mukhtar adds that “one of the most difficult things to see is young people in their twenties losing their family or partners to opioid addiction.” Despite stories like these, Mukhtar remains hopeful. “The MJRH program is successful and worthwhile because we are saving lives in a tangible way. We provide people with warmth and companionship. Their resilience in the harshest conditions continues to
Mukhtar notes that MJRH also helps to combat the stigma associated with homelessness. “Part of my job is taking volunteers with me to help serve my clients. It is a huge part of what makes the program successful. When volunteers witness what my clients go through, it educates them in a way no other
After nearly two and a half years at Ve’ahavta, Mukhtar says he has become a more nonjudgmental person. “I am able to relate to people regardless of their socioeconomic background. I advocate for people who need help, and I put a smile on their face. Nothing is better than that.”
Interested in volunteering for MJRH? Each MJRH van shift is facilitated by a Ve’ahavta Outreach Worker accompanied by three to four volunteers who receive hands-on education and volunteer experience.
Each year, about 500 volunteers give over 4,000 hours of volunteer time to assist MJRH Outreach Workers on the MJRH outreach van!