Santa Claus Fund: A Muslim refugee’s first Christmas started a tradition of giving
Published on Saturday November 24, 2012
They were untrammeled but destitute, a family of seven political refugees living in a Vancouver motel at the onset of their first Canadian winter.
Before arriving in October 1972, Naznin Lakha’s family had been given 90 days to flee their homeland of Uganda, gripped at the time by the repressive rule of Idi Amin. They were ethnic Indians and religious Muslims emigrating from a predominantly black, Christian African country.
So naturally, one of the 15-year-old Lakha’s first encounters with Canada’s tightly wound multicultural knot was Christmas, after a local family arranged a festive dinner through a church “adopt-a-family” program.
“Having truly left (Uganda) with the clothes on our back, it was truly touching,” Lakha, now 56, said of the dinner. “The meaning of Christmas stuck with me — the tradition of giving stuck with me from that dinner.”
The following spring, Lakha’s family moved to Belleville, Ont., and then settled in Toronto shortly after.
The stay-at-home mom, who says she “finds myself twiddling my thumbs” now that her two adult sons are out of the house, is a three-time Toronto Star Santa Claus Fund volunteer, a streak she plans to keep alive this year.
“I will go wherever I’m needed,” said Lakha, who will deliver gift boxes to several of the 45,000 needy kids across the GTA hoping for presents this year if the Star raises $1.6 million.
While Lakha’s co-religionists and other non-celebrators might retreat from Christmas charity, the Oakville resident has embraced it head on.
“It does not matter,” she said of her religion. “In fact, it’s all the more reason I should be thinking of those that celebrate (Christmas) and make it a good experience for them.”
While her Christmas spirit has undoubtedly been fanned by that warm traditional dinner she experienced four decades ago, it’s not all sentimental for Lakha. There’s also the simple, gnawing fact she can’t bear to see children go without presents on Christmas.
“I am a real marshmallow when it comes to kids,” Lakha said.
If you have been touched by the Santa Claus Fund or have a story to tell, please email email@example.com.
Amount raised: $1,276,118
Donate online to the Star’s Santa Claus Fund and you will help provide gift boxes to 45,000 needy children. It’s a small thing that will make a big difference.
To donate by VISA, MasterCard or AMEX, call 416-869-4847.
Read about the history of the Toronto Star Santa Claus Fund.