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Donations from grassroots group helps Afghan refugees settle in Canada

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TORONTO -

A group of volunteers has come together to help Afghan refugees settle into their new homes and start to build a life here in Canada.

The grassroots organization, Canadian Connections, is providing newcomers evacuated from Afghanistan with essentials such as furniture and dining ware.

"We're just trying to help them set up their apartments," Mona Elshayal, one of the group's members, told CTV National News. "Make it easy for them to start their new lives."

It's a cause that has taken on added meaning with Remembrance Day on Thursday. By helping some of these families, the group feels they are honouring the Canadian Armed Forces veterans who worked to bring interpreters out of Afghanistan and away from the Taliban's reach.

Canadian troops pulled out of the war-torn nation in August, and the Taliban has since seized control.

"The fact veterans have been so critical in helping get these translators here, you know, a small pile of furniture seems like a tiny price to pay," Jackie Carlos, who has donated furnishings through the volunteer group, told CTV National News.

One of the recipients of such donations, a former interpreter whose name we're withholding to protect his relatives, says he and his family escaped Afghanistan with nothing but the clothes they were wearing and a small backpack.

"That was really hard to leave back everything," he told CTV National News. "My life, house, relatives, family, everybody."

He recalls the violence surrounding him and his family as they were among those desperate to board a flight out of Afghanistan in August to avoid Taliban retribution.

"The kids were with me, and there were people shooting just next to us," he said. "It was unbelievable. You can't imagine it was a day in Kabul."

Finally, he was able to find a Canadian soldier who provided his family a gateway to freedom.

He says his thoughts will be with the troops on Remembrance Day.

"That was an honour that they came from a long distance to help us, to help our people," he said.

His journey to Canada was the same one many other interpreters have taken.

Sangeen Mateen, who came to Canada a decade ago and now runs his own small business, is helping his family and friends who are now arriving to settle in.

"They were in a sewage canal there, and you see them here now in my house," he told CTV National News.

Now they are able to start new lives in new homes in Canada.

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