Three years and 11 months had passed since Zeynab Mahamed last saw her four-year-old daughter Nesteha.
"When I was here [in Canada], everything was dark for me because I know that my baby was behind me. Sometimes I was even thinking how can I go back to my baby," Mahamed said through a translator.
The decision to leave Nesteha in Kenya had torn Mahamed apart, but in late March 2012, she started to put the shattered pieces of her life back together.
As a young woman, Mahamed, now 40, had fled to Kenya from civil war in her native Ethiopia.
There, she met her husband Abdul and decided to start a family. The newly married couple returned to Ethiopia where their first two children were born. But Mahamed wanted a better life for her kids than what she could offer them in Ethiopia.
They returned to Kenya where they applied for refugee status with the United Nations.
Mahamed spent the next nine years living in refugee camps while Abdul, who did not have the proper documentation to be in Kenya, repeatedly snuck into the country and was sent back to Ethiopia when caught by authorities.
In 2006, Mahamed, and her now five children, received word they had been accepted as refugees to Canada. But Abdul, who was still fighting to be allowed in the country, had missed the opportunity.
As their final documents were being processed, Mahamed became pregnant with Nesteha.
She tried to hide this from UN officials for fear that adding another name to the documents would prevent her and her other five children from leaving the country, but it became increasingly difficult after Nesteha was born.
One day, while Mahamed was out, UN officials came to the house. Nesteha, just one month old at the time, was asleep on the couch while Mahamed's eldest daughter watched her. The young girl tried to hide the baby with a blanket but it was too late, Nesteha would not be allowed to come to Canada with her mother.
Mahamed was faced with a choice: leave her daughter behind as she sought a better life for her five other children, or risk never being able to leave the country.
At just seven months old, Nesteha was left with her aunt in Africa.
For Mahamed, the joy of coming to Canada was replaced with illness and sorrow. She slipped into depression and began suffering severe asthma attacks which resulted in hospitalization.
It was not until Mahamed connected with Ruth Beardsley, senior manager at Options Community Services in Surrey, that the future grew a little brighter.
Beardsley took a keen interest in Mahamed's story and helped connect her with lawyers at MOSAIC, an immigration services agency.
On February 17, 2012, after years of fighting, piles of confusing paperwork and DNA tests to prove that Nesteha was Mahamed's daughter, Beardsley received word that travel documents had been approved.
Mahamed was too weak from her illness to travel, however, so Beardsley and her two sons volunteered to fly to Kenya and bring Nesteha back to Canada.
"I knew that Zeynab really couldn't make the trip, that her health was not good and that she didn't have the proper travel documents and she had another five children to care for here," said Berdsley.
Mahamed didn't believe that she would ever see her daughter again until she watched Beardsley bring Nesteha through Vancouver's airport two months ago.
For Mahamed, the reunion has brought hope back to her life.
"Internally I am happy because I have my daughter and I'm expecting my husband to come and we will become a complete family," said Mahamed.
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