Welcome to Surrey - where even the mosquitoes are friendly

Adel Masoud and Marilyn Reichert could be on a poster for what Surrey hopes to accomplish in the long term. Masoud came to Canada from Kuwait after the Gulf War. Reichert has lived in Surrey most of her life. They are just two of the people you can meet at the Middle Eastern Friendship Centre.

Over the last ten years, Surrey`s population has grown by 100,000 people. It`s an exceptionally diverse city, with a large and established Indo-Canadian population, a growing African community, and it`s a home for refugees from Syria and many other countries.

At the Middle Eastern Friendship Centre, you can meet two people who are representative of the culture of diversity of Surrey. Adel Masoud, and Marilyn Reichert.
Adel and Layla Masoud seated in a section of the Middle Eastern Friendship Centre - a gathering place they founded to help foster more cultural connections. (Kathryn Marlow/CBC)

Masoud, the founder of the Friendship Centre, came to Canada from Kuwait, in 1997. Initially Masoud and his family settled in Winnipeg. Coming from the dry and hot Middle East to the Canadian prairie was a challenge. After three years, Masoud visited Surrey.

I came to my wife and told her, you know what? It's really nice, there's no snow, even the mosquitos are so friendly.- Adel Masound, Founder of the Middle Eastern Friendship Centre

Masoud started the Middle Eastern Friendship Centre as a resource for other immigrants like him, to help people adjust to life in Canada. 

Marilyn Reichert is, in some ways, the opposite of Adel Masoud.
Adel Masoud, left, listens as people visiting the Middle Eastern Friendship Centre he founded talk over coffee. (Kathryn Marlow/CBC)
 She's a volunteer at the Friendship Centre, and a longtime Surrey resident. She bought a house in the Guildford area in 1977. For years, Reichert worked abroad with international aid agencies, and learned to speak Arabic in Oman, before teaching English in Yemen. Surrey grew so rapidly while she was away that by the time she came back, her neighbourhood had a new name: Little Baghdad. 
That whole area, it's called Little Baghdad. I went to the Arab world, learned to speak Arabic, and I come back to my townhouse and I'm planted in Little Baghdad. It can't get any better than that. So, my thing is to help with newcomers because I was a newcomer in the Arab world, and I wanted to be a part of helping those coming to our community here. Part of helping Surrey is helping the newcomers.- Marilyn Reichert, Volunteer at the Middle Eastern Friendship Centre

To hear more from Adel Masoud and Marilyn Reichert, click the PLAY button above.