Teenage refugees reflect on their new home in Canada

Editor’s note: The Fraser Group is made up largely of Kitchissippi residents who came together a year ago to welcome and support a Syrian family: Bousy Al Ibrahim and her children, Mohamad (14), Ehtidal (13), Reem (10), Aya (9), and twins Ahmal and Rahma (7).

The anniversary edition of the Fraser Group Newsletter featured short essays written by Ehtidal and Mohamad and we liked them so much that we wanted to share them with Kitchissippi Times readers.

“These are wonderful testaments to the difficult life left and the joy of living in Canada,” wrote Christopher Smart, Chair of the FG Communications Team. “They are also remarkable achievements by two children who spoke not a word of English when they arrived in Ottawa a year ago.”

 Photo of Mohamad courtesy of The Fraser Group
Photo of Mohamad courtesy of The Fraser Group

Ehtidal: “We are so lucky because we have Canadian sponsors. They are like my family.”

I am a Syrian and I live in Canada now. I am going to speak about my sponsors and how I felt when I was in Syria. There are a lot of sponsors that are good helpers, but I think my sponsors are the best sponsors ever. Also, I am really thankful to those who helped all the Syrian people that were complicated by war and murder. What I lived through in the war for two years was very bad because of the constant fear of death. I was always seeing people being wounded and killed and hearing the screams of mothers hearing about their children’s death. When I looked at my younger sisters and saw the fear in their eyes I wanted to protect them. My mom always had tears in her eye. I could hear the sound of the shells and the planes every day. I saw many awful, unimaginable things. I saw people get their heads severed. I tried to forget this, but I cannot, it’s copied in my mind.

Photo of Ehtidal courtesy of The Fraser Group
Photo of Ehtidal courtesy of The Fraser Group

After we moved to Lebanon, life was very difficult and the rent was expensive. Houses, food, hospitals and medicine were all expensive and we had no one to work to earn money because my father was deceased and my mother could not leave my sick sister. So my brother, Mohamad had to work to earn money for us. He was only 12 years old and everyday his hand was full of cuts from picking fruit. He did not go to school and we did not go to school too. We could not afford to take my sister to the hospital because it was expensive and she needed to go. So we heard that there were associations to help us, so we applied for help.

Half a year later, one of the associations called us and asked if we wanted to travel to Canada. My mom asked the man, if I go to Canada can I treat my daughter and can my children go to school? He said of course and my mom said okay. So they began the paperwork and applied for passports. It took a year to finally get everything in order.

When we arrived in Canada, we got off the plane there were people waiting for us. Do you know who they were? They were our sponsors. There were children and families holding the Syrian and Canadian flags to welcome us. I was scared because when the girl spoke, I did not know what they were saying to me, but there was a translator so I was no longer scared. We arrived in Canada in January, the weather was very cold so they brought us coats. When we got to our new house, there was food and juice on the table and we started seeing the rooms. There were toys waiting for us on the beds. The sponsors were very nice. There were a lot of clothes and the sponsors they were so happy to see us. They were helping my mother fill out papers. After a week, they took us and they registered me and my sisters at school and at camp. Camp was fun and they took us to learn how to skate. Do you know what happened at school when I entered class? There were a lot of students, but there was no one who spoke Arabic fluently. So I used the translator on my phone. The teachers were very nice and they taught me the colours and the animals and how to say hello. So I learned quickly. And I forgot to tell you, we took my sister to the hospital and to private school because my sister is disabled. They registered her in a private school.

When the sponsors come to visit us, they bring a lot gifts and they play with us and they teach us how to play the games, they are really nice to us. We are so lucky because we have Canadian sponsors. They are like my family. Around Halloween, they took us to buy a pumpkin because this was our first Halloween in Canada. We do not celebrate Halloween so we did not know what to do, so they celebrated Halloween with us and we had a lot fun. We had lots of candy too. The sponsors took us to Parliament with them and we went to one of the sponsor’s homes. It was so fun. At Christmas we ate dinner and we decorated the Christmas tree. We watched a movie and we ate a cake and then had a special birthday for my twin sisters and I loved it. I am so lucky to have these sponsors in my new life here in Canada. I really want to help like them when I get older and I thank everyone who helps people in need.

I am so lucky to have these sponsors in my new life here in Canada. I really want to help like them when I get older and I thank everyone who helps people in need.

Mohamad: “When I fell on the ice, people did not laugh at me, they encouraged me.”

Hello, I am Mohamad. I am from Syria. I am 14 years old and I want to tell my story of coming to Canada. When I was in Syria, life and everything was good. One day the war started and everything changed from good to bad. Sitting in our own house we were not feeling safe at all. It started to be hard to live there because if you did not die by a bomb or missile you would die of hunger.  We saw it with our eyes. We decided to leave Syria and we ran to Lebanon. Life there was very difficult and expensive. To get money I had to work because my father died in Syria and my mother can’t work because she can’t leave my sisters alone. I was 13 years old and my work was very hard. After one and a half years, we got a call from a refugee association and I think they asked if we wanted to go to Canada. I’m not really sure what happened but my mom was happy.

Photo of Mohamad courtesy of The Fraser Group
Photo of Mohamad courtesy of The Fraser Group

When we got to Canada, life became good. In Canada I don’t have to work and I can go to school. And everyone here is really nice with us. I want to thank our sponsors because they helped us a lot. They always try to make us happy. We are not feeling alone here. Now I feel like they are my family.

How I learned how to skate

My first time skating was really hard. I fell a lot on the ice. I was thinking this is impossible. How could I go fast like everybody here?  But when I fell on the ice, people did not laugh at me, they encouraged me. With my sisters, we went skating about six times in my first winter in Ottawa. The next winter I started thinking how could I be good at skating? I was very happy when Don asked if I want to take skating lessons. Now I am an amazing skater. I go skating everywhere with my friends. I can stop fast and even go backwards a little. Last Monday there was no school. I was skating with some boys who play hockey a lot. They showed me how to pass and shoot the puck at the net. Someone said I have a wicked wrist shot!

I love biking

Ottawa is a great city for this. Bike pathways are everywhere. Terry always tells me not to go so fast and that I should use both hands. On Canada Day I learned a lesson. We were coming back from Parliament Hill in the rain. I was speeding and Terry reminded me to slow down. But I laughed, and five seconds later hit a slippery spot. Crash! Now I have some scars reminding me to be more careful.

My favourite subject at school is math

I like it because it’s useful for so many things. When John and I were working on the stairs at the back door, we measured and calculated each board. When I go shopping I use math to check if I have enough money for something and if it is a good deal or not. In the kitchen we use math to figure out food quantities for cooking. In the future, in any profession I may choose, I know I will use my skills in math.

These are some of the ways that life here in Ottawa, Canada has become good for us.

Would you like to get in touch with the Fraser Group? Send your email to frasergroup613@gmail.com.


One thought

  1. These Syrian refugees should be sent to oil rich, Arab nations. The Sovereign Wealth Fund of Saudi Arabia is worth over US$759 billion. We do not want any honour killings in Canada.

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