News of the Syrian families that ESG directly sponsored
It has been almost 6 years (Jan 2016) and 5 years (Oct 2016) respectively for the two Rajab families’ arrival in Canada with their sponsorship from ESG. There have been many achievements, some setbacks and several milestones achieved during this time period and we are excited to report on their progress.
Mostafa and Souheila Rajab’s family
The Rajab families have remained settled in their 3 bedroom apartments at Midland and Lawrence. The parents have dealt with some on-going medical issues that they are working towards stabilizing. Before Covid-19, both Mostafa and Souheila were taking English classes at the local Arabic community centre, with Mostafa being a smiling and eager face at the centre each day, socializing with all the folks there.
While it has been more challenging for the parents to learn English, their 4 children have done exceptionally well integrating into Canadian society and learning English. Mohammed, their eldest is now 25 and finishing up a Business Administration/Project Management degree at George Brown College and he expects he will graduate in early 2022! This has been an extraordinary accomplishment given he arrived in Canada at 19 years old and he needed to have a high level of English in order to attend and succeed in this program. We are very proud of Mohammed to be on the verge of becoming the first in his family to graduate from college in Canada! We now have full English conversation with Mohammed on a whole range of topics like Canadian politics, world affairs, heath and wellness, sports etc.
Abdul-Hamid, just turned 24 years old and is working full time at Mazar, a middle Eastern restaurant in downtown Toronto. Abdul-Hamid was previously a chef and manager at Paramount Foods, and is now the full manager of both the front staff and the kitchen staff at Mazar. His goal is to continue to improve his English, in order to be able to enrol in the George Brown culinary school to become a certified Chef.
Hala is now 19 years old and is attending Centennial College full time in the Early Child Care & Youth Worker diploma program. She is reportedly an independent girl that is working part-time at Aleppo Kabab as a hostess.
Yahya, the baby of the family is now almost 6ft tall! He is 16 years old and is currently attending grade 12. Yahya is also working part-time alongside Abdul-Hamid at the restaurant while he finishes high school and decides what program he would like to take in college.
Right before the Covid-19 shutdown in February 2020, several of us joined and witnessed the Canadian Citizenship ceremony for Hala and Yahya and joined their family for a celebration afterwards. Mohammed and Abdul-Hamid are also in various stages of applying for their Canadian Citizenship. The Citizenship requirements include a certain level of English or French proficiency. Mohammed in particular is very eager to get his Citizenship so he can go out and vote!
Oussama and Sawson Rajab’s family
Oussama is very committed to improve his English and is progressing as he works part time at Al WalaaHalal Meat & Grocery store nearby. He gets to practice his English with customers and co-workers with his longer term goal of going back into the Construction industry once his English matures.
Sawson is busy taking care of Baby Mostafa who is now 3 years old. His older sisters laugh as his favourite thing to do right now is to watch Barbie movies!
Hanane, the eldest who is 19 years old, has some exciting news of her own. Earlier this summer she became engaged to Fayez, a Syrian boy that has resettled in Halifax with his family. She has known him for over a year and meet him through mutual friends at the part-time job she works at (an Arabic sweet store). She is so very excited to be engaged to be married next spring. Her schooling is coming first however, as Hanane is completing her Accounting program at Centennial College. She plans to get married and then move to Halifax next summer while she completes her last semester in the program online from there.
Wiam, Hanane’s younger sister by a year, will be starting the Dental Administration program at George Brown Collage this fall. Mohammed is 14 years old and just started Grade 9 this September and colourful Mouna is 10 years old and starting Grade 5! Mohammed loves to go swimming and spends time at the community pool.
In August of this year, all 4 kids received their Canadian Citizenship in an online zoom Citizenship ceremony. So very proud of them all!
We are deeply grateful for the resilience both Rajab families have shown as they have navigated their resettlement and integration. We are very excited to watch the kids flourishing and advancing to higher education. The families have been self sufficient for several years other than a small transit stipend that the Refugee Committee provided to them to help ease the cost of transit prior to the pandemic. In an effort to further support this next generation, we are looking to set up an Education Fund for the children, whereby they can get their student loans for tuition and some education expenses paid off once they graduate from their program. This would be an extraordinary gift to them and will set these kids up student-debt free after graduation for a successful future in Canada.
Please stay tuned for more details about the Education Fund fundraising program in the coming months. If you have interest in donating to that program early, please contact Kristen Ede for further information.
Many thanks for your continued interest and support of these families.
Kristen Ede & Kate Littler
ESG Refugee Committee