Salmon Arm's lone Syrian not so alone anymore

Salmon Arm's lone Syrian is no longer the only Syrian refugee in town.

Mustafa Zakreet helps community welcome two new Syrian families

Salmon Arm's first Syrian refugee gets his first haircut in Canada. Mustafa Zakreet says a haircut in Syria used to cost 150 Syrian Pounds. That's equivalent to less than one dollar Canadian. (CBC News)

It's been two months since Syrian refugee Mustafa Zakreet landed in Salmon Arm, and now, he's no longer the only Syrian in town. 

"We have here now two other Syrian families," said Zakreet.

"I'm just helping them [with] translation [because] they don't speak English."

Including Zakreet, community members in Salmon Arm have now privately sponsored eleven Syrian refugees, with more than two dozen others on the way. 

24-year-old Zakreet is also anxiously awaiting the arrival of his own family — his father and two brothers — who are all still in a refugee camp in Lebanon, awaiting word on their application.

"I'm just missing them a lot," said Zakreet.

"If they come, we want to have a new house here and maybe have a good job and nothing else." 

Salmon Arm's first Syrian refugee is no longer the only Syrian in town. Over the last few weeks, Mustafa Zakreet has helped welcome two other families to Salmon Arm. (CBC News)

'They give me a hug like my mother'

During his first few days in Salmon Arm, Zakreet was still getting to know his sponsor Kari Dukeshire.

But over the last eight weeks, they've developed a bond. 

He said Dukeshire and her friends remind him a lot of his own mother, who was killed by a bomb in 2012.

"When my mother died, I didn't seen any nuclear relatives like my aunts because everybody was in different countries," said Zakreet.

"I didn't see anybody pay attention to me like my mother [used] to. Now I always go to their houses and have lunch and have dinner and [they] give me a hug like my mother [used to]. "

Zakreet is now enrolled in English classes and he's studying for his LPI (Language Proficiency Index) test, so he can apply to colleges.

He hopes to be a civil engineer, like he was back in Syria, before the war began.

Mustafa Zakreet shared this photo of his father, who is currently in a refugee camp in Lebanon with Zakreet's younger brother. (Mustafa Zakreet)

'In spite of what he's been through, he's basically a happy man'

Community organizer Brian Ayotte said Zakreet's integration to Canada has been remarkable. 

"It's his generosity," said Ayotte.

"In spite of what he's been through, he's basically a happy man. I'm still not sure where that comes from but i think gratitude is part of it. He's having a bit of a struggle being the only one [but] i think it's helpful with these two other [Syrian] families. He gets to speak his own language and share more of his own culture but it will be wonderful when his own family gets here."


To hear the full story listen to the audio labelled: Salmon Arm's lone Syrian is no longer the only Syrian refugee in town

About the Author

Bal Brach

@BalBrach

Bal Brach is an award-winning reporter at CBC News Vancouver. She has more than a decade of experience working in television, radio and online news across Canada. Bal's storytelling skills have earned her a Jack Webster Award. She is also the recipient of regional and national Radio Television Digital News Association awards. Bal can be reached at Bal.Brach@cbc.ca or on social media @BalBrach