A fresh start

Syr­ian fam­ily feels great sense of re­lief af­ter ar­riv­ing in Char­lot­te­town

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY JIM DAY

Stay­ing in Syria was no longer an op­tion.

Am­jad Al Rash­dan and his fam­ily of five had suf­fered long and hard enough.

Life had grown more un­set­tled with each pass­ing day.

Get­ting ne­ces­si­ties to meet daily needs in the war-torn coun­try had be­come a ma­jor strug­gle.

Food, when it could be found, was “so ex­pen­sive’’.

Rash­dan would need to wait in line six to seven hours to put gaso­line in his car.

Still, the fam­ily sol­diered on un­der such harsh cir­cum­stances for one-and-a-half years hop­ing peace and nor­malcy would re­turn to their lives. In­stead, it got worse. Gun­fire rang through the fam­ily’s neigh­bour­hood in Daraa, a city in south­west­ern Syria.

Then Rash­dan saw tanks fir­ing on nearby build­ings. He knew it was time to flee. “It was too painful for me to leave,’’ he says through an in­ter­preter.

“It was real hard but the sit­u­a­tion was un­bear­able so we had to move on.’’

Rash­dan’s wife, Ghou­son, and the couple’s three chil­dren — Basel, 10, Shatha, 6, and Idress, 4 — left to­gether for Jor­dan at the end of 2012. Rash­dan joined his fam­ily three months later.

Rash­dan found work in the juice in­dus­try that saw him work­ing very long hours — a far cry from his suc­cess­ful ca­reer in Syria as a vet­eri­nar­ian with the coun­try’s min­istry of agri­cul­ture.

When he learned that Canada was look­ing to ac­cept 25,000 Syr­ian refugees, he was hope­ful to have his fam­ily among this large num­ber.

He says he “un­der­stood’’ Canada to have a good stan­dard of liv­ing and that the coun­try not only of­fered shel­ter to refugees but pro­vided the high­est level of ser­vices and as­sis­tance.

He says the fam­ily was “so en­thu­si­as­tic’’ about start­ing a new life in Canada.

When he landed with his fam­ily at the Char­lot­te­town Air­port on Dec. 28, he felt a great sense of re­lief. The first week set­tling in on P.E.I. has only re­in­forced that pos­i­tive feel­ing.

“Ev­ery­thing has been per­fect,’’ he says. “It has gone so smooth.’’ Ten-year-old Basel beams when asked to de­scribe the big, life-chang­ing move.

“I am ex­tremely happy that we are here,’’ he says.

“I will love go­ing to school here and I love Canada.’’

Rash­dan hopes one day to re­turn with his fam­ily to Syria if and when peace and calm re­turn to that war-torn coun­try.

How­ever, while Rash­dan feels he has left a part of him be­hind, he is fo­cused on mov­ing ahead.

He now hopes for his chil­dren to get the high­est ed­u­ca­tion pos­si­ble and for him to be able to pro­vide well for his fam­ily.

JIM DAY/THE GUARDIAN

Am­jad Al Rash­dan leaves the P.E.I. As­so­ci­a­tion for New­com­ers to Canada in Char­lot­te­town with his chil­dren Basel, left, Idress, mid­dle, and Shatha (miss­ing from the photo is the chil­dren's mother Ghou­son).

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