Imagine having to decide between joining an army in the midst of a civil war or leaving a career you worked so hard to establish. Ammar, an ICA client, faced this devastating decision in 2017. Like so many refugees fleeing Syria, his is a story of struggle, resiliency and hope.
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As a third year Oncology resident at Al-Bairuni Hospital in Damascus, Syria, Ammar had just two years left until beginning a promising career in medicine as an oncologist.
But the Syrian civil war interrupted his plans. The hospital where Ammar worked was being targeted, and by the time he decided it was not safe to stay there, he was one of the few remaining doctors left. It was a difficult decision, but he had no other choice. Suddenly, he had two life-altering options: either join the Syrian Army or leave the country. He chose the latter and the harsh reality he was sacrificing his career and might never see his family again.
A long journey and finally, hope
To escape, Ammar walked 10 hours through the dangerous Syrian mountains. He reached Turkey alone, an unfamiliar but safer place. He didn’t know the language, had little money, and didn’t even have a working cell phone when he first arrived.
Through a friend and relatives, Ammar was able to find a safe place to stay while he attempted to find a sponsor in Canada. By chance, a man in Halifax secured private sponsors for Ammar to help him realize his dream to come to Canada. After three and a half years of being a refugee in Turkey and experiencing setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ammar finally made it to Canada in September 2020.
A new life begins, yet challenges remain
Arriving in Canada during the pandemic presented many challenges. His sponsors were wonderful and supportive, but it has been difficult to meet people, find work, or even volunteer in the community during this past year. Yet Ammar remains hopeful he will be able to find meaningful work, connect with the community and build a happy life on Vancouver Island.
Ammar has learned a lot over the past ten years. His challenges have been great: losing friends and family members, fleeing his home country, being in exile in Turkey and encountering difficulties caused by the pandemic.
“After all I’ve been through, I learned that nothing lasts forever so enjoy whatever you have because it might not last,” he says. “If you want to do something in life, don’t wait. Sometimes life has better plans for you than the ones you have for yourself. After living like a non-person in Turkey, Canada’s Private Sponsorship program gave me a new life. I can proudly say Canada is my new and only home.”
Ammar’s story is both unique and familiar – refugees flee danger and come to Canada for a better life, but the path here is difficult and building a new home is not easy. While happy to be safely in Canada, he still misses his family very much.
ICA admires Ammar and all refugees whose strength and perseverance brings so many benefits to our communities. We’re proud to help provide crucial support to help ensure the long-term success and happiness of newcomers.
It is in this spirit we invite you to join us in this effort, by making a tax-deductible gift to support ICA’s work in honour of World Refugee Day. Please make your donation to ICA today.