From Pakistan to Portage la Prairie

A young 20-year-old, Raahim Iqbal made the journey from Pakistan to Winnipeg to become an International Student at the University of Manitoba in 2011. He arrived in December in the cold winter after finishing 5 years of Army Boarding School in Pakistan.

At the Army School, he learned a great deal of discipline including daily exercising at 5:30 a.m. breakfast on time or there was no food until lunch, classes all day from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and praying for 20 minutes, (shalwar qameez) five times a day. Although it was prestigious to be at such a school, it was also a very lonely time for a young man who was only 14 years of age to be so far away from his family. Many of the other young men at the school were similarly homesick for their family and friends.

Now in Manitoba, and not familiar with the country and city of Winnipeg, Raahim began his post secondary education without friends or family-very similar to his experience at the Army School. He had to figure out where to live, where to get groceries from, how to get around the city and try to make friends in a strange but opportunity filled land. He began his international studies at the University of Manitoba, but then transferred to Red River College to complete his 2-year study of Business Administration. As a full-time student, Raahim also worked part-time at various Mac’s Convenience stores. He worked for a total of 5 years part-time and during this time period, the Vice President of Mac’s Stores approached him to become an owner and run his own Mac’s location. Raahim began thinking about it as he worked toward his “Permanent Resident” status in Canada, which he achieved in 2014.

With his permanent residency achieved, Raahim was able to go back to Pakistan and finally visit his family after not seeing them for 3 years. As of March 2019, it has been 5 years since he has visited his family.

Again, Raahim was asked to take over a Mac’s Convenience store, and finally in October 2016 he decided to manage the store on Saskatchewan Avenue in Portage la Prairie for 6 months to see if he would be interested in investing in the business. In April 2017 after managing the store, he became the owner. Although the name of the store has been changed to Circle K, it is still the same convenience store and gas pumps with an addition of a roller grill with fresh hotdogs and taquitos waiting to be devoured. Raahim has found the community of Portage la Prairie to be extremely hospitable and receptive in helping him find accommodations and the Portage Learning and Literacy Centre played a major role in acclimatizing him to his new city. He attributes the great customers and welcoming community which made him want to invest in Portage la Prairie; both in business and residential properties. In fact, Raahim is so invested in the community of Portage la Prairie, he has continued his journey and became a Canadian citizen on January 10, 2019.

When asked what would be on his wish list for development and improvement in Portage la Prairie, he thought for a moment and then suggested: more Halal meats in the stores, a community centre that could be used for events and daily prayers, a good public transportation system, downtown public washrooms and a regulation sized cricket field.
Overall, Raahim is pleased to be part of the community of Portage la Prairie and looks forward to current and future customers coming into his business to say, “hello” and conversing with him and his friendly staff.