Car drenched in acid, Edmonton refugees get a new ride

The car paint was peeled and blistered in big patches. The sedan had been drenched in acid.

'I was feeling sad, because it reminded me of seeing my country in war'

The car paint was peeled and blistered in big patches.

The frost had long burned off that brisk September morning, but the windows to Ahmed's car remained clouded, smeared with globs of unnatural white.

The car had been drenched in acid, curse words scrawled across hood. More acid had been poured into the gas tank

Less than a year after Ahmed arrived in Canada, the scene brought back painful memories of the conflict.

Twice kidnapped and beaten in Lebanon while living as a refugee, he came to Canada in search of safety.

Suddenly, that feeling of newfound security evaporated.

"I wake up, go outside and I see my car covered in acid," said Ahmed, whom CBC granted anonymity, because he's afraid his family will be targeted again.

"It had been burned," Ahmed said in broken English. "I was feeling sad, because it reminded me of seeing my country in war."

'It was very upsetting. Very bad'

The vandalism happened overnight on Sept. 15, while Ahmed, his wife and three young children were asleep in their north Edmonton apartment.

And it wasn't the first time.

A few weeks earlier, the door of their car had been dented and smashed while it was parked beside their apartment building.

Ahmed reported the acid incident to police and they are investigating, though at this point they are not looking at it as a hate crime. 

But Ahmed said he couldn't shake the feeling that his family was in danger.

"I see the car, and I cried," Ahmed said. "It was very upsetting. Very bad. I was scared."

Ahmed wanted to move his family out of the neighbourhood, but didn't have enough money to cover expenses.

Beyond the fear, the lack of transportation brought other hardships.

"We need a car, because I have a family," said Ahmed, who is going to school to learn English, and hopes to begin working again as a barber.

"I need to go to the school, I need to go shopping, to go to the doctor."

'That first year is very vulnerable'

Feeling defeated, Ahmed reached out to the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers for help.

Suzanne Gross, manager of community engagement programs and partnerships with the organization, felt compelled to help.  

She launched an online fundraiser, hoping to raise $3,000 to replace the vandalized car and help Ahmed and his family begin again.

"This was a family, a Syrian refugee family which has been here eight months," said Gross.

"And some Syrian families have experienced war indirectly around them, this man had experienced directly through torture, so this re-traumatized him very quickly."

"That first year is very vulnerable … and he just felt really beaten down."

A month later, they've surpassed their fundraising goal and have acquired a new vehicle for the family.

The Mitsubishi dealership in Red Deer will donate a 2008 Dodge Caravan to the family, and plans to deliver it to their door on Wednesday morning.

Ahmed knows the new van, and the financial assistance, will help his family start over in Canada.

"I haven't seen it yet. I'm getting it soon. Maybe tomorrow," said Ahmed, grinning wide.  

"I'm so happy. Every Canadian is good here."