That could’ve been me: Why I’m stepping up to help Afghans in Canada

By Shahpoor Amiri

Last week’s bombings in Kabul killed my friend.

That could’ve been me.

Another victim of needless violence and brutality.

These deaths aren’t just casualties of a 20-year war. They aren’t just something we hear in the news.

They are human beings with children, parents, relatives and friends. They are real people who have left loved ones behind.

In an instant, they’re gone – forever.

I couldn’t stop thinking about my own kids and how they would feel if they lost their father. What are these people going through right now? Digesting this information is not easy.

Shahpoor Amiri and his wife, Zainab Amiri, pose beside a CN Tower model in Toronto in the 2000s.

I came to Canada as a refugee in 1999 from Afghanistan. My wife is also Afghan and she had first-hand experience with the Taliban. She was whipped and beaten on the street by the Taliban several times for shopping.

This is daily life under the Taliban.

I’ll never forget where I came from and what I left behind.

I found a job at Walmart shortly after arriving in Canada. My wife is also a Walmart associate and has been with the company for 16 years. We’ve built careers and now I manage a store in Oshawa. We’ve worked hard, started new lives and now we’re giving back.

That’s why I’ve been helping sponsor my fellow Afghans. I feel it is my duty to help my people, who never asked for this fate.

Afghans are people like you and me. No matter what colour, race or religion you are, at the end of the day, we all bleed the same colour.

Back home, Afghans need food, water, medicine and electricity. Canada says it airlifted more than 3,700 people from Afghanistan, but more needs to be done.

Thousands were left behind to face an unknown fate.

It’s heartbreaking, but for now, we need to focus on the lucky ones who got out.

Shahpoor Amiri poses with his wife and two sons to celebrate his oldest son's Grade 8 graduation.

These newcomers to Canada are staying in hotels and need supplies. I’m working with community members to help these people and invite you to do the same.

I’m proud that Walmart Canada is donating to Food Banks Canada to provide hundreds of thousands of meals to the newly arrived Afghans in Canada. Walmart is also supporting the federal government by providing toys and craft items to Afghan children to help them while they’re in isolation. The Walmart Foundation will also be contributing an additional $100,000 to support the community.

My fellow Afghans will need sponsors. I have personally sponsored Afghan refugees and continue to do so. I know this has inspired other Walmart associates to do the same, including some of my assistant managers: Patricia Kirton, Patrick Duffie and Spencer King. It’s overwhelming to see the compassion humans can have for each other.

I’m humbled to help. There are ways you can help, too. Visit the federal government’s website to learn about sponsorship.

I dream that the newly arrived (and those still to come) will build new lives, too, and I know Walmart will welcome people to apply for needed roles in our stores and distribution centres.

I often wonder why I was lucky, while others, like my friend, weren’t.

That could’ve been me.

My hope is that we can all step up and help. Because the 3,700 newly arrived Afghans deserve nothing less.

Together, we’re sparking change that will last generations.