British Columbia

Refugee's path to 'dream' food-truck business highlights challenges newcomers face in job market

A new Middle Eastern food truck has set up shop in Victoria, B.C., adding to the growing list of food businesses launched by newcomers to the country.

Mahmud Hac struggled to find work when he arrived in Canada in 2016

Mahmud Hac started the food truck Kebab Me Crazy after struggling to find employment since arriving in Canada in 2016. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

A new Middle Eastern food truck has set up shop in Victoria, B.C., adding to the growing list of food businesses launched by newcomers to the country.

Mahmud Hac, originally from Syria, arrived in Canada in 2016 with his young family as part of a government-sponsored program.

He recently launched the food truck Kebab Me Krazy with the help of several others in the community, including his friend Zakaria Al-Odatallah, a pharmacist based in Saanich, B.C. 

"I can't describe my happiness, I am very glad that I am seeing Mahmud establishing his own business. It was a dream for him," Al-Odatallah said about the food truck, which serves a variety of Syrian-style street food, from chicken shawarma to beef kebab.

Kebab Me Krazy serves a variety of Syrian-style street food, from chicken shawarma to beef kebab. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Al-Odatallah told CBC his friend's story, as Hac is still not fluent in English — which remains one of the big obstacles facing newcomers to Canada.

Hac tried several different gigs — from construction to cleaning — when he first arrived to support his wife and children, the youngest of whom was born six months ago.

He struggled to find and keep work, though, because of the language barrier and his credentials not being recognized in his new home.  

Mahmud Hac pictured working with his son Mohummad, 18, and Al-Odatallah's son Ahmad, 15. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

"It's very difficult [to find work as a refugee] actually, to be honest with you,"  Al-Odatallah told Gregor Craigie, host of CBC's On The Island.

"You have to have licences, you have to have education, you have to have language."

Hac's partner in the food truck, Ibrahim Zakaria, is from Yemen.

Al-Odatallah says he hopes Kebab Me Krazy will encourage other newcomers to Canada to open food trucks too. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

"Food trucks are not something common back home so most of these newcomers to Victoria will not think about opening a food truck," Al-Odatallah said.

"This will encourage more people to establish this kind of business."

Al-Odatallah said the community has been instrumental in getting Kebab Me Krazy off the ground, from another local food truck providing advice and support to the warm welcome from neighbouring businesses.

"It's a familiar project, a familiar dream for [other businesses in the area] because [Hac] has the same passion," Al-Odatallah said.

Mahmud Hac struggled to find work bouncing from construction to cleaning 7:26

With files from On The Island

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