His new life in Sarnia has been a whirlwind for Kasra Mohammad.
“I feel like I’ve lived so many lives in the last eight months,” said the 38-year-old Syrian refugee. “Student life, father life, immigrant life, work life, refugee life…”
The husband and father of three shared his story during Sarnia-Lambton’s first-ever World Refugee Day celebration, held recently at the YMCA Learning & Career Centre.
Mohammad, who fled his war-torn country and arrived in Canada in October 2016, expressed, with the help of a translator, his love for his new home.
“I drive, I work full-time, and everyone helps,” he said. “Now I have friends, my children have friends, and I am very, very, happy.”
Ten Syrian refugee families – both private and government sponsored – have arrived in Sarnia-Lambton in the midst of the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War. More than five million people have fled Syria since the conflict began in 2011, killing 465,000.
“They’ve just become part of the community,” said Ann Steadman of the Unitarian Fellowship of Sarnia and Port Huron, a group that has partnered with the Sarnia Muslim Association to form the Sarnia Interfaith Refugee Partnership. “We’ve found them to be very responsible, punctual, driven, and focused on being successful.”
She noted Mohammed has already landed full-time work in construction, obtained his licence, and his wife Jamila is looking to get her G1 licence.
“The first time they came to the mosque with their own car, they were so excited,” said Aruba Mahmud, outreach and education secretary for the Sarnia Muslim Association.
“It’s that whole sense of independence; they’re relieved not to have to rely on people so much.”
Fifteen families from 10 countries attended the World Refugee Celebration, an event that Marie Watson, a settlement worker with Community Connections, hopes will become an annual tradition.
“Especially with the surge of Syrian refugees,” she said. “We are a community that is open to immigrants and newcomers.”
Newcomers like Mohammad, who has learned much in just eight months.
“Canada is teaching me about mindfulness,” he said. “People say to live in the present moment.
“So I am trying to do this every day.”