Syrian refugee dentist and engineer face long road rebuilding in B.C.
Viken Majarian and Alin Arekelian looking for work in construction and hospitality to support their family
Before the Syrian civil war forced them from their home in Aleppo, Viken Majarian and Alin Arekelian had a comfortable life, by any standard.
Viken was a dentist with his own clinic; Alin a civil engineer who taught at a university.
Their kids, Haig, 8, and Karni, 4, went to private school. Haig loved kung fu.
"We were dreaming of a good future for our kids," Alin says. "But after 2011, everything began to fall apart."
As the violence escalated in Aleppo, their vibrant life was put on hold.
"Every day, every hour, we were living in fear. Every minute, because we didn't know when [the rockets] would come," Viken says.
"Our house became like a prison for us," remembers Alin. "[Haig and Karni] were missing their childhood."
The family arrived in B.C. late last year, sponsored by St. Gregory Armenian Church, and they're relishing the freedom and safety here.
But they have a long road ahead to rebuild the good life they once knew.
From dentist to construction worker?
Viken and Alin are working to become certified to practise their professions in B.C.
It can be a lengthy and expensive process.
Jerome Marburg, the CEO and registrar with the College of Dental Surgeons of B.C., says it can cost between $9,000 to $12,000 and take around one year for foreign dentists to be recertified in B.C.
"We're talking about health and healthcare providers," Marburg explains. "We have to make sure that everybody meets the standard of safety in order to practise."
Until they can work in their professions, Viken and Alin are determined not to be a burden on the government, "because Canada welcomed us very well."
Viken has taken a fork lift training course and is looking for work in construction, and Alin has received her Foodsafe certificate and is hoping to find a job in the hospitality industry.
"We have to do anything. We have to begin from zero," says Viken.
"We have two kids. We are thinking about their future ... yes, we'll have hard days, rainy days in this year, maybe, but we're trying to do the best."
Determination to 'begin again'
Joanne Chung, an employment counsellor for MOSAIC, says she sees "lots of frustration, lots of anger" amongst the foreign trained professionals she works with.
"Most of the challenges, most of the frustration is a lack of resources on how to start their relicensing process and a lack of professional networking."
Viken admits the road ahead can seem daunting.
"It's hard, yes I know, but I'm not complaining," he says. "I have to show [my children] that everything is OK, everything will be better."
Viken says his family's Armenian history — Armenians found refuge in Syria after the 1915 genocide — has strengthened their resolve.
"One hundred years [ago],when our grandfather's mothers came from Turkey to Syria ... they began from zero," he explains.
"After 100 years, history is repeating itself ... We will begin again."
To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled: Syrian dentist and engineer rebuild in B.C.