Kitchener-Waterloo

Syrian refugees describe what it's like to start over in Waterloo Region

More than 1,000 Syrian refugees have settled in Waterloo Region since the fall. Mohammad Alassi and Fatima Mairami spoke to the CBC's Melanie Ferrier about what it's been like to start over.

Mohammad Alassi and Fatima Mairami arrived in Canada with their 4-year-old son in December

Mohammad Alassi and Fatima Mairami came to Canada with their 4-year-old son Abdulhadi in December. (Melanie Ferrier/CBC)

More than 1,000 Syrian refugees have settled in Waterloo Region since the fall of last year, helped by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's election promise to bring 25,000 refugees to Canada. 

Mohammad Alassi and Fatima Mairami fled Syria in 2012, shortly after their son was born. They spent three years in Indonesia, waiting for a Western country to accept them as refugees. Then, in December, they finally boarded a plane bound for Canada. 

The CBC's Melanie Ferrier visited the family in Waterloo. Here's what they had to say about their new home:

Experiencing winter

Fatima: "When I come here, I'm having too much fun, because after two days there is snow! I tell my husband, 'I miss the snow.' Because in Syria sometimes it snows also, but not that heavy."

Mohammad: "Fatima loves the winter. I hate the winter."

Learning English

Mohammad: "We are finished school since 15 years, so this is long time.... So, here we see the difficulty writing or sometimes speaking or listening."

Fatima: "Sometimes, like today, I'm getting bad marks. So, I'm feeling frustrated, like I can't reach my -- I will need too much time to reach my dreams."

Finding employment

Mohammad: "I worked as a millwright before in Syria. So, I need to study mechanical engineering here in Canada. So, I must study physics and I must study math to apply to Conestoga College."

Fatima: "I want to study hygiene. So, I am studying now. I will complete the benchmark in English in Conestoga College. So, I will apply later for the hygiene. This is my dream."

Remembering Syria

Mohammad: "The first street we passed, it's similar to a street in Syria. So, it's like refreshing our memories.... Sometimes, if you see something similar to some place you liked, it maybe give you bad and good feelings at the same time."

Fatima: "I don't want to remember my country, because if I remember, I want to cry."

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