A Syrian Family Determined to Prosper in Canada

Think you could never get uprooted from your home? Think again!

When Amena and Nizar first got married, they never thought they’d leave their home country, Syria, to live abroad. They most certainly never thought they’d leave their country in the circumstances that they did. They both belonged to well-established families. Amina had a Bachelor’s degree and dreamed of a career in education. Nizar was equally ambitious.

But things changed. Syria was engulfed in civil war. This young family lived through what we witness on nightly news and our social media feeds. When Amena found out she is pregnant with her second child, moving out of Syria was no longer an option, it was a matter of life and death. Though it meant leaving their parents and everyone they knew behind, the young couple along with their one-year-old daughter began their exodus in Jordan.

Like 90% of displaced Syrian refugees, the family didn’t live in a refugee camp. Instead they rented a small apartment with the bit of savings they had. Thanks to Canada’s Welcome Refugee program, the family landed in Vancouver in September, 2015.

Soon after their arrival, The family connected with a network of fellow Syrians who guided them through the process of applying for subsidized housing. BC Housing provided them with an apartment on Granville Island, an area generally not associated with low-income housing.

At first, Nizar and Amena only visited the Muslim Food Bank for the food parcel. Later, they were referred to the ASPIRE program which is designed to support clients through challenges such as mental health, poverty and so forth. The Karams’ case was handed to caseworker Jannah.

“I was impressed that the couple was able to obtain subsidized housing in Granville Island all on their own” said Jannah.

There were definite hardships though, the first being language barrier. Nizar was barely able to speak English, Amena was a little more fluent than him. She attended ESL (English as a Second Language) classes to improve her fluency. With the help of a close-knit network of friends, Nizar was able to find a job in construction. This meant that Amena had to stay home with her kid.

Like many immigrants, Amena was unable to attend her ESL classes due to lack of childcare. That’s when Jannah stepped in. Jannah referred her to the Child Care Resources & Referral program which enabled her to go back to her ESL classes.

“What’s really amazing is that within seven months of relocating to Canada, this family stopped receiving welfare assistance because the husband secured a well-paying job,” Jannah said.

            As Amena’s due date drew closer, being away from her parents took a toll on her. Jannah found Amena a nursing aide to help with this. The nurse aide assessed Amena to be at high risk of postpartum depression due to lack of support during her pregnancy. She was given access to a self-care program which consisted of exercise and activities to help alleviate her issues.

When her rental agreement expired, Amena went to Jannah for guidance. Jannah asked Amena to speak to her building manager and let him know that she is pregnant and that once she delivers the baby, she will vacate the apartment. Amena did just that and her lease was extended for another six months. Jannah was elated to know that her advice worked in their favor.

The family was able to stand on their own feet within months of immigrating to Canada. The Muslim Food Bank filled the gaps by providing the right support at the right time.
These are real stories where our volunteers have an impact on members of our community helping them progress in their lives. InshaAllah next week we will bring you another story. Please join us to have a purpose in your life to make a difference in the lives of your brothers and sisters by coming to our events and registering as a volunteer or donating to your organization, the Muslim Food Bank and Community Services Society (usually referred to as Muslim Food Bank) at www.muslimfoodbank.com/donate. Our email is coordinator@muslimfoodbank.com and telephone number is 1-866-248.3868.