Jalal Al Madani

Syrian refugees learning the ropes of life in Canada

Nawal Habbal is having a tough time adjusting to life as a new mother.

Nawal Habbal is having a tough time adjusting to life as a new mother.

The 18-year-old is learning to cook, clean and to understand the needs of Fayez Almadani, her one-year-old son.

In most situations, a new mother could depend on her own mother or closest female relative for support and advice on child rearing.

But Habbal’s mother and sister are living in a city outside of Cairo called Sixth of October City, where they fled from war torn Syria three years ago.

Habbal and her husband Jalal Almadani, 22, are one of the 29 families under the government sponsored refugee program who have resettled in Red Deer.

The family of three, which is one of the youngest families relocated to Red Deer, arrived on Feb. 8.

“I am very happy to be here but I miss my mother,” said Habbal, who spoke through Suaad Al-Aghbari, an Arabic-speaking Catholic Social Services Immigration and Settlement worker assigned to the family.

“I am very young. My mother was the one who took care of my son. I know nothing. She would mix the food and feed him. It’s really hard for me to know what to do with my child.”

There are five Arabic speaking counsellors who work with the 29 families (156 individuals) on top of their regular workload. This means taking them to doctor appointments, language assessment tests, grocery shopping and other basics. Al-Aghbari said it is impossible to spend the entire day with one family.

“It is very difficult for her without her mother,” said Al-Aghbari. “She has called me crying. Her mom was doing everything for her. I give her basic advice.”

Habbal said her son is constantly calling his grandmother’s name.

Three new Syrian families are living in the same neighbourbood but they cannot help every day because they are busy too, said Al-Aghbari.

Habbal said her dream is to have her parents and her sister’s family with them in Red Deer. Her sister Lina, 25, has four children including three-year-old triplets and a two-year-old. Her brother-in-law is responsible for his family and his in laws.

“I am really worried about my family,” said Habbal.

Almadani said it was very expensive to live and to find work in Egypt. He said the children could not go to school because they had to have permanent residency. Trips to the doctor were very expensive particularly when you have four children, said Habbal.

The Red Deer couple have been married for two years. Almadani, who is a mechanic, hopes to find work in his field after he learns English.

“We want to thank Canada,” said Almadani. “We didn’t see this (kindness) anywhere else in the world. The people in Red Deer are really helpful people.”

Catholic Social Services is continuing to provide support for the 29 families or 156 new arrivals including holding employment assessment workshops to develop some strategies about their future occupations. Two new families arrived last weekend.

“Almost all Syrian refugees left some family member behind and they are looking for an opportunity to bring them here,” said Remza Mujezinovic, program supervisor for Catholic Social Services (CSS) Immigration and Settlement in Red Deer.

She said landlords in the city have helped significantly in finding permanent accommodation for the new residents. She said they have been very accomodating in many ways. Catholic Social Services has found housing for all the families within 14 days of their arrival in various communities in Red Deer.

crhyno@reddeeradvcoate.com

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