Had­had has big plans

The Chronicle Herald (Provincial) - - FRONT PAGE - AARON BESWICK THE CHRON­I­CLE HER­ALD abeswick@her­ald.ca

On Dec. 23, 2015 Tareq Had­had sat star­ing at a cup of tea in a house on Church Street in Antigo­nish.

“Wow,” he re­peated to the cool­ing cup. “It is a mo­ment in my life.”

Three days ear­lier he was throw­ing clothes into a bag in Le­banon for a flight into the un­known on no no­tice. It meant leav­ing his mother and father and four sib­lings on the prom­ise they too would be brought to Canada as refugees from the civil war tear­ing their home in Syria apart.

All our lives are filled with mo­ments.

But since ar­riv­ing in the small Nova Sco­tian town he'd never heard of three years ago, Had­had has racked up some sig­nif­i­cant ones.

He's met Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau mul­ti­ple times, for­mer U.S. pres­i­dent Barack Obama, spo­ken to thou­sands and along with his fam­ily founded and runs a choco­latemak­ing com­pany that em­ploys 55 peo­ple in their adopted home.

Mon­day was an­other big mo­ment in the 27-year-old's life. He passed his cit­i­zen­ship exam.

“For me it's about a depth of be­long­ing and a sense of iden­tity,” said Had­had. “I am part of this big fam­ily and I will take it with me wher­ever I go in the world.”

Like the tens of thou­sands of other Syr­ian refugees brought in by this coun­try af­ter its heart strings were torn by the photo of three-year-old Alan Kurdi drowned on a Turk­ish beach, Had­had was im­me­di­ately granted per­ma­nent res­i­dency.

That gave him all the rights of those of us who were born here other than to vote. So cit­i­zen­ship was a de­sire more than a prac­ti­cal ne­ces­sity.

“The beauty of Canada is, no one asks you to take off any­thing of your cul­ture, your mem­o­ries,” said Had­had. “You bring them all with you and then you in­te­grate. You can cel­e­brate your cul­ture and mix it with what you learn and see here.”

Had­had is a young man who brought a lot of mem­o­ries with him. Mem­o­ries of grow­ing up in the cul­ture and tra­di­tions of Da­m­as­cus – one of the world's an­cient cities. Mem­o­ries of hud­dling with his fam­ily in a base­ment as the bombs tore that home apart.

Of a des­per­ate drive to the Le­banese bor­der and of vol­un­teer­ing with the Union of Devel­op­ment and Re­lief As­so­ci­a­tions that at­tempted to patch up the wounds, both phys­i­cal and men­tal, of poor Le­banese.

And now, mem­o­ries created in his new life as a world trav­el­ling pro­po­nent of peace and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of a com­pany em­ploy­ing mem­bers of the com­mu­nity that took his fam­ily in.

“If we weren't forced out of our com­fort zone in Syria by the war we as a fam­ily would not have known what it is to suf­fer, to be afraid,” said Had­had.

“If you haven't ex­pe­ri­enced those things then they are hard to un­der­stand. So, we have a grat­i­tude for all the crys we had, all the laughs. They have shaped us and made us stronger as a fam­ily.”

Now life is about re­spon­si­bil­ity born from grat­i­tude for their ex­cep­tional jour­ney. The Had­had's have founded the Peace on Earth So­ci­ety --the pro­ceeds of par­tic­u­lar prod­ucts go to so­cial causes. In Jan­uary they will launch the Peace of Mind cam­paign, di­rect­ing pro­ceeds from cer­tain prod­ucts to the Cana­dian Men­tal Health As­so­ci­a­tion.

Smartly dressed in a three piece suit, Had­had has great am­bi­tions for Peace By Choco­late. With their prod­ucts al­ready across Canada he wants to en­ter the Amer­i­can mar­ket.

He wants to be­come one of this coun­try's big­gest choco­late com­pa­nies in five years.

Had­had has come a long way from that couch on Church Street three years ago where he stared at a cold cup of tea and told a Chron­i­cle Her­ald re­porter: “Our goal will be to re­turn the kind­ness that has been shown to us. We have not come here to take; we have come to give back."

AARON BESWICK • THE CHRON­I­CLE HER­ALD

New Cana­dian Tareq Had­had in his fam­ily's Antigo­nish choco­late mak­ing fa­cil­ity.

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