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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

‘Smile Boxes’ filled with toys give comfort to Afghan children resettling in Canada

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TORONTO — Two friends are doing their part to smoothen the transition to Canada for dozens of incoming Afghan families.

Ashlynn Fisher and Faryal Anwari have been preparing gift baskets — or “Smile Boxes” — for children who have recently arrived in Canada from Afghanistan.

“We decided we wanted to do something to make them feel welcome,” Fisher told CTV News Channel on Saturday.

Many recently-arrived families are in the middle of their mandatory two-week hotel quarantine stay. This week, Fisher and others will be donating 123 boxes to Afghan children staying in the Greater Toronto Area.

“The smile boxes were created to keep them busy and to bring them some happiness,” Fisher said.

Besides toys, many of the boxes contain crafts, sports equipment, crayons, colouring books, and stickers. Fisher said that for some of the older children entering school, the gift baskets will also include school supplies.

To help get fund more gifts for more children, organizers are asking people to donate through their GoFundMe page and affiliated “Welcome to Canada Project for Afghans” Facebook page.


Anwari, the other co-founder of “Smile Boxes,” moved to Canada from Afghanistan when she was a child.

“Faryal shared with me that when she left Afghanistan, there was not much support for them and how she wishes that she could have received something like this,” Fisher said.

“It would have really helped her feel safe, feel welcome, and it would have helped her with that transition,” said Fisher, whose husband also fled turmoil in Afghanistan years ago.

In recent days, Fisher and Anwari have been donating some gift boxes already. To respect families’ privacy, they haven’t met any of the recipients face-to-face.

The Salaam Foundation, a non-profit organization, has been acting as the go-between for them and has been conveying the families’ reactions.

“The families that did receive boxes from us were extremely grateful,” Fisher shared, saying she’s glad she’s been able to put a smile on their faces.

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