Column: Family flees conflict in Syria, now thriving in Salmon Arm

Welcome Shuswap by Linda Franklin, Shuswap Immigrant Services Society

By Linda Franklin

Contributor

Ayman ALberro is an immigrant from Syria, who settled here in the Shuswap in 2016.

He arrived from Lebanon with his wife Habah and their two children, Mohamad, now 7, and Nada, now 5.

Ayman is a multi-talented craftsman who works with rock, blocks and concrete, creating walls, patios, driveways and sidewalks. He has built stairways and arches, planters, fountains and gate pillars, and is adept at rockwork for facing walls and landscaping. He learned his craft in Syria before the current war.

At 19, after his father died, he began work, supporting his mother and many siblings. He frequently worked in Lebanon as civilian life in Syria deteriorated.

Eventually he moved his family to Lebanon as conditions became intolerable in his town due to the bombing of its citizens by the Syrian government, supplied with Russian arms. They had previously left the city where they had a family home, to reside in an area of chicken farms near the Turkish border. The bombs followed them, killing many from direct hits and shrapnel. They had little choice but to flee to Lebanon.

Their first refuge in Lebanon was a small patch of ground in a farmer’s orchard. They “rented “ enough space to build a small refuge with bits of wood and found objects and sheets of plastic. No running water, no electricity. After 14 months, the camp was demolished by the authorities and Ayman and Habath and their two children moved to a U.N. camp. This second home in Lebanon was a building in which were 14 bedrooms, one family per bedroom. Ayman’s mother and siblings had to return to Syria as there was no room for them.

Ayman continued to send money to his family in Syria as he was able to find steady work.

Each year, they were required to renew their identity papers ($400 ) and each year they requested emigration to a peaceful country. And they waited.

Read more: Shuswap residents challenge complaints, misconceptions around refugees

Read more: Seven refugee families choose to stay in Salmon Arm

Read more: Shuswap refugee family settles into new, more hopeful life

Finally, the call came offering them the possibility of living in Canada. The excitement was short-lived as a vital document was missing. Fortuitously, Ayman’s family in Syria was able to find a copy and, within hours of producing the document, the ALBerro family had the go-ahead to come to Canada.

With the sponsorship of the First United Church, the family settled in Salmon Arm in 2016.

Habath’s parents and her younger sister and brother were killed by a bomb. She has a surviving sister in Turkey and another in a camp near Turkey.

Ayman’s younger brother died on Feb. 1 just this year as a result of the continued bombing of the Syrian people by their government. The camps in Lebanon and in Syria, near the Turkish border, do not offer much protection from winter. Life is very hard for those who remain. In those camps, three million displaced people wait, hoping for a better life .The war is not here in Salmon Arm, but is very much a part of the ALberro story.

In Salmon Arm the ALberro family is thriving. Ayman’s skills are being put to work and you can see some of his creations on Facebook. He aspires to put his skills to work , hiring others as his small company grows.

He is hoping to be joined by a nephew (who has lived for the past seven years in a tent with his wife and two children) and who is also skilled in rock-work. The AlBerro children are enjoying school and learning fast. The whole family is passionate about cross-country skiing and enjoy beach visits in season. They have recently been joined by a new member of the family, Yazan, an enchanting four-month old boy. Although Ayman and Habath did not understand a word of English when they arrived, they are becoming very proficient at expressing themselves in English. They have landed on their feet and life here is good.

Submitted by Linda Franklin and the Shuswap Immigrant Services Society. The society dedicated to working with local residents and community organizations to welcome and support newcomers to our community and to promote an inclusive Salmon Arm.

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