World Refugee Day Special: Savan’s Story

Coming to Canada as a privately sponsored refugee, Iraqi-born youth Savan Kajo’s journey has just begun.

By Taylor Richards

Iraqi-born Savan fled to Lebanon when he was 15 years old. “My family and I left our country because the war had started over there and ISIS took over our village,” he says.

As a refugee in Lebanon, Savan had no choice but to quit school and work full time to help pay for rent and food for his family. Three years later, Savan, along with his mom, dad, sister and brother, were privately sponsored by a church to come to Canada.

Although he struggled with the language barrier, Savan immediately felt accepted in Canada. “When I arrived in Canada everything was different and easier. I started to feel safe, appreciated and worthy. People are kind and polite here,” he says.

Savan could also finally go back to school. While researching his next steps, Savan came across DIVERSEcity and its RISE Youth Program, which provides settlement information, social and emotional support, skills development and community connections in first languages. His case specialist, Rola, connected him with resources for completing his education as an adult.

Now 21 years old, Savan has received his adult high school diploma and is hoping to attend university.

“My goal as a new Canadian is always to give more and more to this country that gave me everything I dreamed of. My personal goal is to be something important in this world,” he says.

“My advice for fellow newcomers is to be ambitious, never say it’s impossible, keep on trying and never give up.”

Are you a newcomer facing multiple barriers? DIVERSEcity’s Refugee and Immigrant Specialized Experienced Program assists newcomers to use their strengths to cope with issues and barriers, and to increase their skills and knowledge to independently settle and integrate. Connect with our RISE Youth and RISE team via email at