Some might argue that there are plenty looking to leave Pictou County, but the Almadhyb and Almatheb families who arrived here a year ago as Syrian refugees couldn’t be happier with their new home.
After settling in and being able to live beside each other, such as they had in Syria some time ago, the families are beginning to blossom in the community and show thanks however they are able.
“We are happy,” said Basem, the father of the Almadhyb family. Both he and his wife, Rania, feel as though they have found a safe quiet corner of the world to live in after everything they have been through. Both families who come from a small town in Syria feel very at home in Pictou County.
Abdulkarim, the father of the Almatheb family, as well as his wife Ghada, are very thankful
for Safe Harbour, the organization that took in both families. Abdulkarim feels that the
Muslim community in the county has been very supportive and that makes them feel connected to the larger Muslim community as well.
Although they feel like they have much to be thankful for after everything that has happened in the past year, Rania noted that she was overwhelmed by the friendships she has made after just a year. The emotional support she received after arriving in a new country and new home help her overcome being homesick.
Speaking about how they felt about their new lives, Abdulkarim mentioned that in their language, there is saying about “destiny” and that is how each of them feel about arriving in Pictou County: It was simply destiny.
The families have been working on getting on their feet in the past year. Currently, Abdulkarim is working with Crombie REIT and the two teenage boys are hoping to start part-time jobs at Sobeys soon. Both Rania and Ghada have partnered to create a catering business called The Syrian Kitchen and are taking any opportunities they can to expand their new business and share their cuisine.
It is evident the hard work and time they have put in to tearn and understand how to speak English.
“I can speak with my friends and with my son and help him with his homework,” said Rania. She also noted that the improvement in her language allows her to do things we may take for granted, such as grocery shopping.
In Grade 11, Mohammed Almadhyb has taken to his new life well and adapted to speaking English with his new friends at North Nova Education Centre. Sarah MacIntosh Wiseman, one of the leaders of Safe Harbour, noted that less than a month after Mohammed arrived at the school, he was already helping other international students.
Some of the biggest challenges for the family so far have been the language and the weather, they noted. Having not seen snow in Syria, the mothers were worried the children would get sick if they went out and played in the snow. The kids now, just like many other Canadian children, enjoyed playing in the snow during the wintertime.
Both families agreed that in the coming year they want to work hard on improving their English as well as helping their children to become more involved in their community, build friendships and be productive members of society. The families are already working towards that as they can be found volunteering around town.
I met both the Almadhyb and Almatheb families for the first time at the Almadhyb family home for this interview. As I walked in the house there was a lively, friendly feeling and everybody was chattering and smiling. Although only beginners at speaking English, the families did their best to answer each of my questions and gave very expressive answers with the help of the translator.
It’s not hard to tell that these families are beyond thankful for everything they have been given in the last year. Many times during the interview their gratitude to the community as well as Safe Harbour was expressed.
After taking a photo of the families sitting together on the sofa in their new home, I was ready to put away my camera and say my thanks and goodbyes as I would normally do at the end of an interview. The families, however, had a different idea. They welcomed me back into the living room and brought out trays and trays of delicious looking food that was prepared for guests.
Insisting that I stay for coffee and dessert, I couldn’t say no as the plate was passed to me. Then came coffee in tiny Espresso-style coffee cups, a different type of coffee usually served in Canada and arguably more delicious. As dessert was served everybody was chatting and smiling and happy, there was a very warm feeling of family and comfort in the home.
After eating two extraordinarily delicious Syrian desserts and finishing my coffee I stayed to chat for a little bit as I felt very comfortable in the home. Finally taking my leave, everybody thanked me for coming and I was given a hug.
Some interviews I walk away from on a mission to get to my next assignment, but I walked away from this interview smiling from ear to ear at the thankfulness, hospitality and more that these families had to offer. I couldn’t help but hope this was also the same feeling they had when they arrived nearly a year ago