Winnipeggers served simple meal as reminder of refugees' struggles
On World Refugee Day, local eatery serves typical ration meal
A simple meal of rice and beans was on the menu at local eatery, Sam's Place. On World Refugee Day, it served as a symbol of what many people might eat in a refugee camp.
The goal was to raise awareness of the 65 million people who are refugees or find themselves internally displaced within their own countries.
Ahmad Alkhatab told the crowd about living in Canada for the past four months. His two sons are going to school. His wife is taking classes, too. Originally from Syria, Alkahatab says they sought asylum in Jordan, where he wasn't allowed to work. That made it difficult to put food on his family's table.
"You can't eat everything you want and you can't eat every time you want so there is a restriction of eating there," Alkhatab said.
He did find work under the table, giving private English lessons to Jordanians and Syrians. But the lessons came with risks.
"If Jordanian police catch you working, it's a problem, a big problem. They deal with you as if you've committed a crime. They put you in jail for maybe two or three days. And they make you sign a promise that you will not work again. If that happens twice, maybe you will be sent home to Syria. It's so dangerous," Alkhatab said.
The United Nations refugee agency says persecution and conflict in places like Syria and Afghanistan raised the total number of refugees and internally displaced people worldwide to a record 65.3 million at the end of last year.
"It can be really easy to overlook the fact, that just because we don't see them every day that there are millions of people who are not as lucky as us and have been forced from their homes," said Amanda Thorsteinsson with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
Thorsteinsson said the ration meal is also an opportunity to acknowledge refugees like Alkhatab, who have fled terrible circumstances.
Alkhatab says he hopes to be able to go back to work soon, perhaps teaching English to other refugees. And now that he's in Canada, he's comfortable saying the future looks bright for his family, especially his children.
"Every day I see them happy, I feel happy," Alkhatab says.