Anas Birkdar and Huda Alsayed came to Canada with their three children from Syria three years ago. They joined other immigrants at the Winter Social hosted by Central Alberta Refugee Effort and Catholic Social Services. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff

Syrian immigrants feel welcomed

Winter Social held at Festival Hall to promote multiculturalism

Anas Birkdar and his family came to Canada from Syria three years ago.

Birkdar, who has three children with his wife Huda Alsayed, joined other immigrant families Saturday to break bread and make new friends at the Winter Social hosted by Central Alberta Refugee Effort and Catholic Social Services.

“The people are very friendly and gave us a lot of support when we came to here,” said Birkdar at Festival Hall, where the luncheon was held. “All the people here are really nice.”

When the family came to Red Deer, they were asked what they needed, including help with their new language and finding a job.

Both are studying English and Birkdar has found work with a local cabinet company.

“I like Red Deer. It’s a small city, a small town, but you find here a lot of experiences.

“Now, I’m feeling good. I have a lot of Canadian friends.”

Central Alberta Refugee Effort settlement practitioner Tessa Murphy said the event helps promote multiculturalism in a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere.

“This has always been an opportunity for people to get to know each other, to get to know other cultures,” she said. “The feedback we get is that people have a lot of fun.”

The event is a potluck, which means those who attended literally got a taste of other cultures.

“It gives an opportunity for people to get together and celebrate their culture and celebrate their food, because food is a part of their culture,” said Julia Grymalyuk, a settlement counsellor with Catholic Social Services.

While there is no shortage of anti-immigrant rhetoric in the news these days, Murphy said they embrace the positive.

“Rather than focus on any sort of negative things that are happening, this is really our positive way to promote diversity and inclusion.”

Murphy was happy to hear that local residents had turned out to rally in favour of immigration downtown on Saturday.

“I think it really shows who Red Deer really is. Events like this, and those positive things that we see in our community, I think they really give an example of who we want to be and who we actually are.”

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