Since January 2014, more than 2,370 Syrian refugees have immigrated to Canada in hopes of resettlement. Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Service (AAMHCS) was tasked to coordinate healthcare and settlement information and services during the mass intake of refugees in Canada, specifically Toronto. AAMHCS has set out ample resources ranging from a Syrian Refugee Health Clinic to language interpretation to help newcomers understand key information such as permanent residence status and sponsorship. To gauge an idea of the resettlement process, AAMHCS sat down with Youssef Adult Karim, a newcomer who arrived in December 2015.
Despite the long journey, Youssef is grateful and happy to have arrived in Canada. Like most Syrian refugees, he stayed at the Toronto Plaza Hotel where he connected with volunteers and hotel staff. Reflecting back on his experience he says,” Everyone was very, very beautiful people. Can you imagine you have 500 persons every day and you have to help them all? Nobody ever complained and they are always helpful and smiling”. Patience, respect, and compassion have helped Youssef to build and maintain relationships with people and volunteers in Canada. During his discussion of his overall experience he says, that “…in Canada there’s respect, there is no white or black or this and that. Each one respects the other, woman and girl. I’ve never seen like that and I loved that. Maybe some people see other things, but my future is to live here.” Looking forward, Youssef hopes to either complete a diploma in hotel management or business management at George Brown College.
Youssef’s story is just one of many that are waiting to be told of a new life and opportunities found here in Canada. More information on healthcare and settlement resources, please visit AAMHCS’s website page “Syrian Refugee Response”
Interview Transcription of Youssef Adul-Karim
1. When did you arrive in Canada?
I arrived in Canada end of 2015.
2. Where were you coming from?
I came from Syria to Lebanon and now to Canada.
3. When you arrived in Canada, you were staying at the Toronto Plaza Hotel?
We stayed at a hotel near the airport for one night to get some rest, the second day they picked me up to go to Toronto Plaza Hotel.
4. How long did you stay at the Toronto Plaza Hotel?
About 3 months, which is why the agency was busy in trying to schedule people to rooms. They were great people and they did the best they could do to for us people in need.
5. Did the agency help you find your current residence?
No actually, I found this apartment myself. This is my first apartment; I see it and I took it. A lot of people were actually surprised that my first apartment was in high park area. I’m not sure if it’s too expensive or not, but I picked this area for two reasons: 1) I want for myself and my family to get better in English and by living with your own community, you won’t learn English and 2) Toronto is a very big city and lots of jobs can be found
6. What were you doing within the 3 months you spent at the hotel? What kinds of services and things that were set up by Costi?
In the beginning, things were different and I know that I won’t stay here for long. I tried my best to help out those families that do not speak English, maybe by translation or take them somewhere. In the hotel, there were lots of Costi volunteers, but nobody spoke our language. I know my English is not too good, but the experience was good.
7. So far, are you enjoying the city, Toronto and living here?
Yes, of course, there are 2 things that I do not like: 1) the weather in the winter and the 2) the waiting, maybe on the phone call, maybe hospital or clinic. If you need care, you should understand that maybe you will wait 6 hours. What is this 6 hours of waiting for doctor? I think the government should do something for this. I have faith in this government to do something for this. It’s not logic; it’s not good to wait for 6 or 7 hours. Even in emergency situation, they prefer, as example, if you have a heart attack, you go first. I don’t know. I went with my father, a problem happened with my father and I called 911 and we waited 1hr and we were lucky because it was only 1hr and I saw that. I see that it depends on your situation. These are the only two things that I don’t know; otherwise everything is good for children, for adults, for old people. I love Canada, before I see it. I read about Canada and why people like it. I see many advertisements why many people immigrant to Canada. There’s respect, no you’re white, I’m black and you’re this and that. Each one respects the other, woman and girl. I’ve never seen like that and I loved that. Maybe some people see other things, but my future is to live here my whole life. I’m telling you, I travel to many countries and I saw the difference, I out in Lebanon, in Jordan and in Turkey and I saw enough to see the difference. And every country has positive and negative things. But Canada has more positive things more than the negative things.
8. What kinds way did you help besides translation?
For people with children, I would ask them if they need food, like “did you want some bread?” “or water?” or moving plates from the table. I don’t blame anyone. Everyone has personal thing and I do not need to know that. The manager of the restaurant came to me and I remember helping and that I was the only person in the kitchen to help. I only bring the big plat for the foods, like for chicken and bread. One day I was very powerful and full of energy (don’t ask me what happened to me), I went to the kitchen and I said, c’mon we want food. But the manager understands that I’m very helpful and he saw that and he told me that. At that moment, I don’t know why, I just wanted to help. After a few days after that, the manager asked me to work with the kitchen. And I asked for a couple of days to think.
9. What kind of work were you thinking of getting into? What would you like to do?
George brown college, I research about the school and follow up and see and compare.
10. What are you thinking of studying at George Brown?
Hotel management or business management. I used to work with hotel in Lebanon so I have some experience there with working with customers and kitchen, but if I do business management, then I can join any company. I’m not sure which to pick because if I stick with Hotel management then I’m stuck if I don’t like the hotel. But if I do business management then I work for TD or Rogers or any of those business.
11. If you had one thing that you thing we, such as Costi or Access Alliance, what do you think we could have improved on? Is there anything else that Access Alliance (since we were tasked to oversee the healthcare) could have done for?
I can’t judge because I did not see a doctor, so I can’t judge the issue. There’s a lot of people who complained but there are also a lot of people who liked the services. In general, I think it was good, I saw that people coming in the morning at 7am till late at night. Everybody was a hard worker.
12. How many of your family members did you come with?
My parents joined Canada after 2 and a half months. My brother came after 5 days on February 9th. But I was the first one who came to Canada. And now we live together. There was a problem that happened but it was easy to solve, we didn’t have time to find room for sleeping so we were all sleeping together. And I knew it was hard to mix with culture here. And it was hard because my family does not know English. I told Costi agency that I need help to have my family live together. So after three or four days, everyone joined me in Toronto Plaza. The people who worked in the hotel, the receptionist, housekeeping. Everyone was very, very beautiful people. Can you imagine you have 500 persons every day and you have to help them all? Nobody ever complained and they are always helpful and smiling.
Youssef’s Closing remarks: “Smile, respect and you will feel really good, in any situation. That is my message to all newcomers and help people. I love Canada.”