As a young girl in Syria in 2015, Waed knew she was in the middle of a war when bombs started going off in her neighbourhood. With her family she fled the country and although not welcome became a refugee in Lebanon. Their personal experiences in Beirut were horrible. She continually faced discrimination because of the colour of her skin. Negative comments were constantly thrown as she was belittled and told she was lazy and stupid by other children.
She attended school part-time for two of her 5 years in the country. But, there was not a lot being taught in the school and her education suffered.
Most days her mother Fawza, left at 6 or 7 am—not returning until 4 or 5 in the afternoon—carrying Waed’s younger brother (who was unable to walk) to the hospital hoping to get him proper care. Waed then became responsible, at 10 years of age, for the supervision of her siblings, plus cooking and cleaning the family’s quarters.
Waed had never seen a library and did not know that there were books you could borrow to learn different things.
Fast forward to 2021, and Waed is now a teenager, who has learned to speak, read and write English; enjoys being a student in a high school with good teachers; has friends; feels safe in Canada with her family; and works at a part time job.
For Fawza, the war in Syria and five years spent as a refugee were beyond ‘awful’. She had a good life in Syria. But with the war had to struggle to take care of her family (which included her husband and five children, two with medical conditions) after they fled to Lebanon.
Syrians were not welcome in Beirut. The family of 7 shared one room with two other people. Their children (along with other Syrian children) were not allowed to play in the park.
She worried incessantly as the family could not afford the cost of needed medication; there was not enough food to feed her family (the children would share one bruised apple when they could); and rats entered their apartment repeatedly from the garbage lot next to the old decrepit building in which they lived. Fawza says she experienced incredible guilt leaving her ten-year-old daughter Waed to care for her much younger siblings, but, she had little choice.
A better life begins
When Fawza learned that her family would be reunited with a sister who had already been sponsored to Perth, there were tears of relief. A great burden had been lifted.
May 9, 2018 the day the family left for Canada, was the very best day of her life! Coming down the escalator at the Ottawa airport, she saw her sister and brother-in-law waiting for the family. There were hugs that lasted 20 minutes and many tears of joy.
When they arrived to their home and saw a fridge full of food just for them (including enough apples that each child could have a whole one) the family was ecstatic! There were beds for everyone and new pyjamas. Fawza is forever grateful for the people who support her family. She said, “The people here really, really, really, saved our lives.”
Both strong women have hope and dreams. Waed plans to go to college to become a nurse and eventually a doctor.
Fawza’s personal dreams after arrival included:
- learning English,
- going to school to become a hairdresser – or maybe a personal support worker, and
- learning to drive.
She has succeeded in learning English and is quite fluent. Has obtained her driver’s license and is now attending school to earn her high school diploma. She is happy to report she has a part-time job in food service and is on her way to making her dreams come true!