Three Syrian refugees are hoping their stories of survival will resonate with their Canadian classmates and encourage them to appreciate freedom.
Nour Albaradan, Mays Al Jamous and Abdul Mustafa shared their experiences fleeing war at the Sheldon-Williams Collegiate’s annual Remembrance Day ceremony Friday morning.
“It’s very empowering for them because they’ve been through so much and they’ve been through very difficult times,” explained their EAL teacher Kyla Wendell McIntyre. “By sharing their story, they’re using that experience to create peace.”
Wendell McIntyre added she’s spent most of her career teaching students from war-torn countries. While the places they come from change, she said their stories do not.
Grade 11 student Mustafa was the first to speak to the crowd of high school students. He said his goal was to show his audience the contrast between Canada and Syria.
“In Canada, say if it’s the summer and it’s nice weather, then I can go out and hang out with my friends. We miss that in Syria now,” he said. “If you feel bored and you want to go out, you’re probably going to get shot — you’re never going to come back to your house.”
While the 17-year-old said he misses parts of being back home, nothing could compare to his life today.
“Here in Canada, people respect you and you feel like a human here,” he said with a smile.
Second to speak was 16-year-old Al Jamous, who fled Jordan with her family back in 2016, after living in a refugee camp for four years.
She said sharing her experience helps break down that barrier of curiosity between herself and her classmates. Most of all, though, Al Jamous explained that she wants her story of resilience to inspire people.
“You have to keep hope because things will get better,” said Al Jamous. “Before I came to Canada, it was really hard to keep hope, but I stayed keeping hope and I’m safe and I’m studying and I’m happy.”
Albaradan was the last to speak. She began talking about how she was only 10 years old when the war began in Syria, and how her interests quickly switched from toys and playing with friends to finding safety. The 16-year-old also read her poem about her journey called Being Human.
She said her message was entirely about peacekeeping, and she hopes that’s what her fellow classmates take away most — not just on Remembrance Day, but every day.
“I told them that peace is the secret to living,” said Albaradan. “Everyone can do something to keep peace — everyone must do something to keep peace.”