When she thinks of her early days in Montreal, Nayiri Tavlian remembers that time as dreamlike, a surreal sleeps cape that unfolded in slow motion. Nayiri's Armenian family had fled the Lebanese Civil War in 1976, taking refuge in Canada. She was 15 years old. “It took me years of struggle to integrate into this society. Slowly, with the help of good friends and mentors, I became the person I am today,” she recalls. Navigating tectonic cultural differences while trying to go to school, make a living, learn a new language, take care of family, all the while grieving for what's been lost is the dilemma every refugee encounters. Her personal experience was the touchstone for the founding of Hay Doun a non-profit committed to smoothing the way for refugees and immigrants from all parts of the globe.
Officially chartered in 2007, Hay Doun helps newcomers integrate by connecting them with services that range from psychosocial programs to educational resources, non-profits in health and social services, support to families, youth and the elderly, translation and accompaniment, legal services and job banks. “The name Hay Doun means Armenian home, a place open and welcoming to anyone, always ready to help.” Nayiri says what they try to do is be the light to help these people find their way. That illumination shines in countless directions, providing hope at a time when for many there is only despair. An army of more than 200 volunteers work daily with this incredibly resilient community. And it all begins at the first moment, with a personal welcome and assistance at the airport.