Nova Scotia

Nova Scotian in South Korea trying to bring Syrian student to Halifax

A Nova Scotia woman living in South Korea wants to ensure a Syrian man, once targeted by his country's government, gets a fair shake at finishing his engineering degree in Halifax.

Abdul Jalab, once targeted by Syrian government, wants to finish his degree at Dalhousie University

Marie Frenette is trying to help Abdul Jalab, once targeted by the Syrian government for helping protesters, get from South Korea to Halifax to finish his engineering degree at Dalhousie University. (Submitted by Marie Frenette)

A Nova Scotia woman living in South Korea wants to ensure a Syrian man, once targeted by his country's government, gets a fair shake at finishing his engineering degree in Halifax. 

Marie Frenette is trying to help Abdul Jalab. Forced to leave behind his parents and younger brothers four years ago, Jalab fled from Syria to South Korea. 

He now works at a box factory there, sending money back to his family. He wants to stay. But his chances are slim. South Korea has few immigrants and Frenette says the process doesn't work in their favour.

"To be honest, it's not because I pity him or something like that," she told CBC News from her home in Seoul. 

"I respect him so much as a person. He's become a very, very good friend of mine and I think he deserves wonderful things. And he's also very motivated to succeed and I know that with a little help, he's going to do that." 

'I feel like I am in limbo'

In 2012, the same year he began a mechanical engineering degree, Jalab and a friend were trying to get medical supplies out of police-occupied hospitals to help Syrian protesters injured in armed conflict. 

Anyone helping the protesters were targeted by the Syrian government.

His friend was killed.

In August 2012, he illegally left Syria for Lebanon and stayed there for a few months. He chose South Korea in 2013, having visited there once before. 

"I also feared for myself because the situation in Lebanon was also not that great," Jalab said.

"Korea is very, very great country, I think. I really enjoyed living here. But the thing is, I feel like I am in limbo. Nobody can help me. I cannot continue my studies. This is why I'm trying to reach Canada and study." 

Like the protesters for whom he risked his life, Jalab is now the one getting unconditional help. Frenette thinks Halifax is the most logical place for him to be. But Jalab has never been to Canada.

"I watch a lot of videos of Canada and Nova Scotia too. It looks like amazing people. Very kind. And I think I might have better life and future there," he said. 

Getting Jalab to Halifax

Frenette moved to South Korea 10 years ago. She was raised in Westville, N.S. This August, she's getting married Seoul. 

To help Jalab in the meantime, she's co-ordinating with Dalhousie University to find him a spot in their engineering program. 

"I thought it would be interesting to try to reach out to them and it was really incredible how quickly they got back to me," she said, adding that it's too soon to detail how the university will help Jalab. 

She's started a crowdfunding campaign online to cover travel, school and living costs. 

"He's basically demonstrated to me that he can survive and adapt, no matter what, so I'm sure in addition to all the funding we're bringing together, that once he gets to Canada he's going to work very hard." ​

Jalab, being the beneficiary of Frenette's efforts, stumbles a little when trying to describe how he feels. 

"How I can say is, it's like, I didn't expect all this kind people and kind-heart heart — angels, to be surround with. I am really amazed," he said. 

"Everybody's like supporting me. Wow. What should I do? How should I give back to them?"


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