PEI

Canada has changed this Syrian's outlook, now she'd like to change yours

Hadil Haddad, an English teacher from Syria, has already made a long journey to enter a masters of education program at UPEI, but she still feels she has a long way to go.

'I see compassion, but I would love to see more knowledge'

It was a difficult decision to come to UPEI, says Hadil Haddad. (UPEI)

Hadil Haddad, an English teacher from Syria, has already made a long journey to enter a masters of education program at UPEI, but she still feels she has a long way to go.

Haddad applied to UPEI through the Syrian and Iraqi Student Project, which helps students in those countries advance their education in Canada and the U.S., almost two years ago. She left her family behind in a country torn apart by civil war.

"Emotionally it wasn't an easy thing," she said.

"I had to think about my future because my parents are still in Damascus and I have to think whether that's the right step or not. Eventually my family was really supportive and they said, 'That's your future.'"

'They didn't want to let go easily'

Haddad's family suffered in the war.

When the fighting approached her hometown her family made a decision to stay, but they had to reconsider as the situation grew more dangerous.

We need compassion but knowledge, knowledge is more powerful I think.— Hadil Haddad

"They didn't want to let go easily," she said.

"But again, there's a point in which you either do this or you die. So you would let your house go because you don't want to die, you don't want to lose your life."

Their home was destroyed just two days after they left it. All of her family was safe, and Haddad is thankful for that.

Making connections

Despite all the horrors, Haddad wants Canadians to understand that the war does not define her country.

"What we don't know is how beautiful and how peaceful that country was. The history and the culture that's underlying there," she said.

Her plans have changed somewhat since she first applied to come to UPEI. She had an idea that she could improve education for girls and women in Syria. That's still important, she said, and she may return to that mission, but for now she feels she has work to do in Canada.

Hadil Haddad with Sister Sue Kidd and Prof. Ronald MacDonald, her scholarship sponsors at UPEI. (Submitted by Hadil Haddad)

"Maybe I can do good to my country while I'm here, more than what I can do back there," said Haddad.

"For me they are all connected."

She is applying for work in Canada for when she completes her degree in December, but not necessarily in the classroom. One of the things she's learned, she said, is education does not happen exclusively in schools. It can happen in families, on buses and in the street, everywhere.

She has seen in Canadians the first step in understanding Syria, but she wants more.

"I see compassion, but I would love to see more knowledge about what's really happening," she said.

"We need compassion but knowledge, knowledge is more powerful I think."

As a Syrian, Haddad said, it is her responsibility to help people learn more about her country, but Canadians have an equal responsibility to know what is happening in the world around them.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Island Morning

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.