Syrian newcomer looks back on first year in Canada
It has been a year since Ghader Bsmar arrived in Canada through the Ryerson University Lifeline Syria Challenge (RULSC). When asked what the challenges of adjusting have been, she replies simply: “No challenges!”
No challenges? “I liked Canada the second I came here,” says Bsmar through a translator. “I can study and pursue my goals. When I was back in Syria, I left high school and got married. Here, it feels like I’m important.”
One thing is undeniable: it has been an eventful journey for Bsmar, her husband, Hamza Morad, and their two children since leaving Syria. Originally staying in Lebanon, they moved to Jordan when one of their sons was diagnosed with Leukemia. There he received a bone marrow transplant, but treatment costs grew high. Happily, it was soon after that the family was accepted to Canada.
“It’s like a great load was lifted from us,” says Bsmar. “We don’t have to worry about the treatments here. We also hoped for better education for our children—that’s the main reason why we’re so happy to be here.
“This morning, my uncle called me,” she continues. “He got a call from the government about whether or not he could come here. He’s sick, and I told him that here, he can get the treatment he needs, and here, at least people treat you like a human. In the country where he is right now, you’re looked like as a refugee—you’re not looked at like a normal person.”
Bsmar’s family is one of 155 cases supported by RULSC (close to 392 newcomers in total). In Toronto, RULSC Syrian families have access to United Way’s network of agencies. For three months, Bsmar attended the language program at Woodgreen Immigrant Services. Other services available to newcomers include ACCES Employment, COSTI Immigrant Services, Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, Skills for Change, and Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Services.
Ryerson’s annual United Way campaign helps keep these services accessible. “On an annual basis, we invest $4 million through our network of agencies supporting newcomers and refugees,” said Janice Chu, director of programs, Grants and Capacity Building, for United Way. “On a day-to-day basis, we offer 355 programs across the City of Toronto and York region, providing services helping newcomers integrate into our local communities.
“There are three pillars of United Way: building a strong and responsive community service sector; building strong neighbourhoods; and enabling youth success. By supporting United Way, we will help build a strong region where everyone will have the opportunity to live a better life.”
Today, Bsmar’s husband works in a bakery, while her children attend school. “I’d like to go to college and pursue a career in social services,” says Bsmar. “When I came here, I volunteered in several places to help Syrian refugees. I feel like we should be able to help each other through this.”
Ryerson’s United Way campaign is running until the end of the year. To donate or get involved, go to ryerson.ca/unitedway.