05 Apr Bombs and Breakthroughs
The Journey from Syria to Surrey as a Refugee Family.
For the last seven years, civil war has ravaged Syria leaving hundreds of thousands dead and millions more displaced. Over five million Syrians have fled their homes in search of safety and security in other countries. With the endless news coverage and such a large number of refugees, it’s not surprising that people lose interest and forget about the individuals whose lives have been forever changed by this tragedy.
This is Ali’s story, just one of the millions of human stories from Syria.
* To help the real Ali remain anonymous the names have been changed and we used an image that represents Ali for this blog post.
Life in Syria
In his early 40’s, Ali was a farmer in the Homs region of Syria. He lived a happy life with his wife, Yasmin, and their four children. Although he spent some time serving in the army, Ali wanted to stay out of the politics tearing his country apart. He truly enjoyed the life that he and his family led.
Then one day everything changed. A bomb literally fell on his home. The devastation was immense. He lost everything he had worked hard his whole life for. Lucky to be alive, Ali knew that he and his family couldn’t stay with a civil war raging in his village.
Journey to Lebanon
Ali and his family fled Syria and made it to a refugee camp in Lebanon. There, the six family members lived together in a three metre by three metre room. A carpenter and handyman, Ali did odd jobs to support his family in Lebanon. Each day was a struggle to earn enough money to feed his family.
Knowing this situation couldn’t be permanent and that the conflict in Syria wasn’t going to end soon, Ali applied for placement in another country. He was informed by the UN that he was eligible to go to Canada. Initially, Ali wasn’t thrilled. Like many, his perception of Canada was that of a cold, snowy polar ice cap – wildly different than the climate of his home land.
Friends explained that Vancouver was more wet than cold, which helped persuade Ali a little. But deep down, he really just wanted to go back home to Syria. Ali was given only three days to decide. Even though Canada wasn’t his first choice, Ali realized it was the best choice for his family.
Arrival in Canada
Ali and his family arrived in Vancouver in the summer of 2017. They didn’t know a single person or speak any English. The Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISSofBC) welcomed them and provided housing for their first three weeks in Canada. The first challenge was finding a more permanent place to stay. ISSofBC contacted New Hope, and Ali and his family have been living in the New Hope apartment building in Surrey ever since.
Life with New Hope
As New Hope resident, Ali and his family rent a furnished two-bedroom apartment and have a volunteer support team from a local church.
Housing at New Hope means safety, security, and a chance to start again. Ali’s children have other kids to play with and are making friends in the building. Twice a month, the entire building shares a community meal together and connect with each other, volunteers and New Hope staff. Part of New Hope’s approach is to connect a refugee family with a local church group to provide support, guidance and care. Ali’s family is connected with a Vancouver church that regularly checks in to provide personal support.
The support teams provide additional support to the families by nurturing a friendship. They liaise with settlement workers to make sure the family gets to all their appointments and they serve as a safety net if anything falls through the cracks in the system. They help if there is a financial shortfall and help them practice their English.
Ali and his family feel love and support from the New Hope community. With the support they receive, Ali and his family can live independently, but they are not isolated. Ali always pays his rent on time and keeps up with the family bills. He’s saving money toward buying a van for his family and just recently got his N plate!
Not without Challenges
After securing housing with New Hope, transitioning into Canadian life wasn’t seamless. The cultural changes were huge. Not to mention healing from the trauma of escaping civil war and uprooting to a new country. Ali’s minimal education and lack of English skills have also made the transition challenging. It has been difficult for the children at school to learn a new language as well as the curriculum. Ali explains that the New Hope community and other friends have been instrumental in helping overcome these challenges.
Hopes for the Future
Fleeing the horrors of civil war in search of a safe place to live often means living day-to-day to survive. Now that Ali and his family are safe and secure, Ali’s hopes and dreams for the future are similar to most people’s. He wants to take care of his family and provide a good life for them.
And joyfully, Ali’s family recently got a little bigger.
While in the refugee camp in Lebanon, Yasmin was pregnant but lost the baby because she didn’t have access to proper medical care. It was a devastating experience while in an already traumatic situation. Yasmin became pregnant again while in Canada. She felt anxious and nervous after losing her baby in Lebanon. In February of this year, she gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby girl.
The healthy baby marked a new beginning and a new hope for their family in Canada.