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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The refugee's dream

David Karami and his son at a construction project in Thunder Bay. David and his wife Negar arrived in Thunder Bay in the early 1980s with nothing but a will and drive to build a new life away from the horrors of political repression and life-threatening violence in Iran.

David and Negar Karami feared they would lose everything -- including their lives -- when they made their way out of Iran in the early 1980s, after the Islamic revolution. As Kurds, the Ayatollah's henchmen confiscated their property and some of their relatives were murdered. They escaped, a young couple, penniless, using fake identities, crossing through to Turkey then France. And, through one relative's connections in Canada, they landed in Thunder Bay, Ontario, in 1983.

Fast forward 25 years -- Karami's business, Finn Way General Contractor Inc. completed $28 million in business last year; and is likely to reach $50 or more in the next few years. The Karami's have built an incredibly successful, substantial business, through the sweat of their brows and the intelligence and resourcefulness that define the best of the Canadian dream and adventure. Their two children have an entirely different life than their parents -- their eldest son, 17, is heading next year to Lakehead University for a degree in Civil Engineering.

In a few hours, I'll write the first draft of the story about their business for Northern Ontario Construction News. I thought about those who complain, who blame, who say we should close the door to refugees who deny Canadians (or Americans) jobs, and about the two people ahead of me in the line at the Thunder Bay Airport hoping to get rich by purchasing lottery tickets. (I chose instead to purchase a Globe and Mail and New York Times.) Where are the real opportunities, choices, and options? And why do so few people see the opportunities that are right at our hands, even while others despair and complain.

Yesterday, I asked a question: 'Where is the owner?" about a struggling business in another community. Today, I found the answer: With entrepreneurial resourcefulness, hard and smart work, we can all achieve greatness despite apparent adversity and horrific challenges.

And, thankfully, I'm able to make it my business to find and report on these stories.

It's good to be home tonight -- tomorrow I head in the air again, this time to Timmins.

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