Helping Part 2

There’s a thing called a prompt in the Blogging course I’m taking.  This prompt created a jumping-off point for the next piece about the Syrian Kurd refugee we’re trying to help.

He is a young single man, brother to the wife mentioned in the previous post.  He left Syria by foot in 2013, because he had completed a two-year degree and was no longer exempt from military conscription.  He is Kurdish, and as such is in a double bind:  if he returns to Syria and the government forces stop him, he can be forced to fight for Assad against his own Kurdish people and against other rebel groups.  If he returns to Syria and goes to a Kurdish area, either of the Kurdish groups fighting against Assad and the other rebels could force him to fight.

He has a degree which he took in English and speaks English well.  In his current situation in Turkey he cannot legally work and he cannot travel freely because of the many refugees travelling through Turkey to the EU.

Until three days ago he worked in a lamp shop for half wages, acting as an interpreter for customers.  His shop was 1 km away from the suicide bomb blast that killed 10 people in Istanbul.  With no customers, his job is gone.

We are waiting, as is he and his family here in Canada, for paperwork to come through from the Syrian embassy in Istanbul that will allow us to complete the sponsorship application and have it submitted to the Canadian and Turkish governments.  While he is waiting, there is violence all around him.  Syrian refugees are being blamed for the latest blast and the police have rounded up suspects.  There is nothing that we, or he, can do to speed up the process.

The prompt for this post was about belief.   Belief is:

An acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof:  Oxford English Dictionary

In an e-mail just yesterday, this young man said he still believes and is still strong in his hope that everything will be okay and that he will be allowed to come to Canada.   I call that belief, and strong belief.  We just hope his belief will be proven true.

Reason to Believe



Helping Part 1

When the pictures of the young boy whose drowned body washed up on a Turkish beach suddenly raised international awareness of the Syrian refugee crisis, it sparked our empathy as well.  My wife Hengameh (May) and her family were from Iran, so she knew first hand how difficult life was in some countries.  She attended the vigil at the Alberta Legislature on September 8, 2015 and subsequently we both attended an information session held at the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers.

We were not part of a group, and therefore could not afford to sponsor a family, but the Mennonite Central Committee put us in touch with a Syrian Kurdish family (wife, husband and young son) already here who were trying to help the wife’s brother come to Canada.  They had immigrated as government sponsored refugees through the United Nations High Commission on Refugees earlier in the year.

Their story is similar to many of the refugees.  Before the civil war began in 2011 they lived a good life, had jobs and were paying for a home.  Aleppo, where they lived, was a sophisticated, modern city with a long history and many amenities.  In 2012 that all changed.  The civil war came to Aleppo.  The building beside their home was shelled and collapsed.  Their own home was damaged.  Rebel groups started to move into the city and loot for supplies.  The couple had just had a son, and he was two months old when they decided to flee.  Luckily for them, the husband had family in Turkey, so they were able to legally cross the Turkish border and stay with them while they applied for refugee status.

They came to Canada in the spring of 2015 and found an apartment on the south side of Edmonton.  They did not speak English, had little money, and were distant from the Kurdish community here.  When we met them in October of 2015 the husband was taking English classes every day, while the wife stayed home with their young son.  May arranged appointments at the EMCN for both of them, one with an Arab-speaking interpreter who helped the wife fill out the immigration application form for her brother, one with an EMCN worker who helped the husband fill out his resume in English.  Through our contacts with a grocery that supplied Iranian food, May was able to help the husband get a job in a new restaurant just opening.  Now he goes to English classes in the mornings and works, and the wife is starting English classes as well.

It really does take a coordinated effort, and we have been helped by many people, including a good friend at the EMCN and a Kurdish community broker who met with us and the family to interpret.  We had the Kurdish family to our home for Christmas, and other good friends of ours went with their family to purchase gifts for the newcomers.  It was a joyful time watching the young boy play with toys all night long.

Currently the brother who we are trying to help is a refugee himself, a Syrian Kurd living in Turkey, with violence and poverty around him.  More on him and his story in upcoming posts.