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Syrian refugee family in Dartmouth struggles on $1,350 a month

A government-sponsored refugee family living in Dartmouth is trying to make ends meet.

Family of 8 uses money earmarked for furniture to pay day-to-day bills

Waleed Alghdyan, his wife Amnah and their six children arrived in Nova Scotia on Jan. 19. He's pictured here with his three youngest children. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

A Syrian refugee now living with his family in Dartmouth is grateful for all the help they're receiving, but says they're struggling because living in Canada is far more expensive than he thought.

Waleed Alghdyan, a one-time construction worker, came to Nova Scotia with his wife Amnah and their six children on Jan. 19. They're among the 694 government-sponsored refugees now living in the province.

The family is glad to be in Canada and out of the refugee camp in Jordan where they lived for more than two and a half years, and where their youngest son was born.

Alghdyan says his family has received support from the government, the local immigrant settlement organization and neighbours, but the reality has been harsh.

"We were expecting something better than this," Alghdyan told CBC News through an interpreter. "Expectations didn't meet reality."

The family was given $9,000 to buy furniture to outfit their home and provide them with the essentials needed to cook and look after basic supplies. But after spending $3,000 to make sure everyone had a bed to sleep in, the family put the brakes on further purchases.

"If we were to spend all that money on furniture and supplying appliances and stuff for the house, we wouldn't have money to buy food and buy other essentials," Alghdyan said through the interpreter.

$1,350 a month

Like other government-sponsored refugees with families of a similar size, the Alghdyans gets a monthly living allowance of $1,350.

The eight-member family is living in a three-bedroom house where the rent is $1,100 a month. The family's cable, phone and internet bundle costs $114 more.

That leaves them with less than $100 a month for everything else.

Alghdyan figures the family is spending that amount every day, which is why the family hardly had any furniture until new friends stepped in.

Cheryl Oake spearheaded a furniture and food drive at work and among friends to help the family. Alghdyan is grateful for that, too, and for the fact his family now has Canadian friends and supporters.

"Before we were isolated and anxious because it was very difficult here, but now they are more comfortable," said Alghdyan through interpreter Tamim Arabi.

"It's like a 180-degree shift."

Alghdyan hopes other Syrian families, also struggling to make ends meet, are just as fortunate in finding friends and neighbours willing to help them out.

Privately sponsored refugees have a built-in support group, but he says his and the other government-sponsored families don't.

About the Author

Jean Laroche

Reporter

Jean Laroche has been a CBC reporter for 32 years. He's been covering Nova Scotia politics since 1995 and has been at Province House longer than any sitting member.

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