TORONTO -- A Syrian refugee living in Toronto is paying it forward by working at the same hotel where he was housed when he first arrived in Canada.

Khaled al-Mouktaran and his family arrived in Canada in 2016 as refugees fleeing civil war in Syria in search of a better life.

“In the first few days in the country, you’re scared,” he told CTV News. “You don’t know what to do, you don’t know how to act, you don’t know how to talk.”

He and his family were first housed in a Toronto hotel while they figured out a more permanent housing situation.

“There wasn’t much to do,” he said. “I had a small window where I spent most of my time sitting just watching the new country from the other side, trying to see whatever was happening on the new peaceful side.”

Al-Mouktaran began learning English while staying in the hotel, and during this time also learned some other customs surrounding life in Canada.

“We learned that if you ever feel unsafe you call 911,” he said. “A couple of minutes later we had firefighters, paramedics, police officers all around the building, but no one ever found out that we did it.”

During this trying time, al-Mouktaran said the volunteers and hotel staff made the transition into Canadian life easier.

“I really liked the community we had there,” he said. “We had a great community.”

Al-Mouktaran’s family eventually found a more permanent home and moved out of the hotel. Five years later, he is back at the hotel to help those who need it.

“I know what it means to be homeless,” he said. “I know what it means to be a refugee. I know how hard it is and how no one really wants to be in the system.”

Al-Mouktaran has found the job so rewarding that he’s considering going to school for social work.

“Sometimes I do a 16-hour shift or long shifts, but when you go home at the end of the day and put your head on the pillow, what you did really makes you happy,” he said.