Editorial: Rising waters
For some Cape Bretoners, it might at first seem like a dream come true — to others, a nightmare: to be a separate island again, free from the causeway to the mainland.
Refugee family members are making this area their home
Ahmad Al Hussein takes time to straighten up a showcase.
BROOKFIELD, N.S. – Friendly and outreaching perhaps best describes Ahmad Al Hussein.
It was June 30, 2016 that Ahmad’s family, originally from Syria, arrived in Nova Scotia from Lebanon. The refugee family has adjusted well and Ahmad (pronounced Ak-mad) agreed to share his story.
“I actually arrived one night before my family,” began Ahmad, 21, who now resides in Brookfield. “I was so excited to fly in to the Halifax airport. I met the best people from Brookfield and area.”
It was about midnight and he was surprised to see many people waiting.
“They were writing Arabic sentences, they were so welcoming. I was so happy to meet these people.”
Ahmad, who has lived in Canada for just over eight months, said he is very busy. Besides working at Mario Baini’s Emporium in Brookfield, he attends the Nova Scotia Community College in Truro, upgrading his education, and he interprets for a number of other refugees.
“It’s like lots of pressure, this is a busy stage in my life, I am busier than I ever was in Syria or Lebanon. But, although I’m busy, I’m enjoying working with Mario, I’m enjoying my college, I’m very happy with the way things are going.”
Mario Baini’s Emporium offers many products including groceries, produce, dairy products, pizza, donairs, cold-cuts and fish and chips. Ahmad has worked for Baini going on three months and is learning the business well.
“He does everything,” said Baini, who’s been in business in Brookfield for more than 10 years. “Ahmad is really good at making pizza. He is very smart and catches on quickly. The public seem very happy to talk to Ahmad, he is very kind, welcoming and always has a smiling face. He treats this business like it was his own. Regarding the other employees, he shows them lots of care and respect, there are many things I like about Ahmad.”
Co-worker Jazmin McLellan agrees.
“Ahmad is a good guy, he is a very hard worker. Ahmad fit in right away. He is a good person to work with.”
An uprising that started in Syria in March 2011, spiraled into civil war. The United Nations estimate 220,000 people have been killed; CNN estimates a much higher death total.
Millions of people have fled Syria.
“At the end of 2012 my family decided we had to leave Syria or we would be in great danger,” Ahmad recalled. “The war was spreading hugely, it was very hard to leave relatives and friends. Food and things like propane were becoming very hard to get. It was the worst feeling watching your country being destroyed and knowing there was little you could do.”
He was nearly 17 when they left Idlib, a large city in Syria, to go to Lebanon.
“Before war, Syria was like a paradise in my heart; remembering peace and when I was a young boy, it gives me inspiration.”
When Ahmad graduated from grade 12, while living in Northern Lebanon, English was one of his favourite subjects. Deciding he wanted to study English, he attended a Lebanese university for two years.
“It was a big challenge. I am still one year away from graduating. Actually, since arriving in Canada I have made a decision to pursue a new goal. This goal could take me a lot of years but I would like to some day make a career with the RCMP. To help the citizens, that’s what I’d like to do. I find that police in Canada help people; I like to help people too.”
Other members of Ahmad’s family he lives with, include his father Abdulwahab, who works at Forest Glen Greenhouses, his mother Osayma and younger sisters Gufran and Alaa. It is estimated approximately 50 people have assisted Project Hope, the Brookfield- Stewiacke Valley Refugee Family Sponsorship Committee which sponsors Ahmad’s family.
“Ahmad came here speaking English,” Joel Dawe, chairman of Project Hope, said. “Ahmad has been a huge help to our committee. He’s such a great guy, I can’t say enough about his kindness and compassion. These are wonderful people who came from a horrible circumstance; we are glad it is working out well for our committee and the Hussein family.”
Lyle Carter’s column appears every second week in the Truro Daily News. If you have a column idea, contact him at 902 673-2857.