‘We Left Everything Behind’ – Family searches for peace on P.E.I. after escaping the fear in Syria

By Ernesto Carranza

Oct. 2, 2015

Awad sat at his short wooden table waiting for his wife Makarem to bring over a tray of small, white espresso cups filled with Turkish coffee.

There are no decorations, the walls are bare, and the house has little in terms of furniture but this was home for Awad and his family.

“I have a degree in agricultural engineering and had a good job. My wife has a degree in economics. We had a good life. We had the perfect life,” said Awad

The Al Khalels came from a small suburb outside of Damascus near the border of Lebanon near where the Syrian rebel army set up outposts.

“Before the war, we were comfortable. After, when the rebels started shooting rockets toward the city, we were afraid they would hit our son’s school.”

Ghaith, who was only eight at the time, would run and hide under his desk when he heard the explosions near his school.

He was scared most days when he was home, Awad said.

“We could not live that way. We left everything behind to escape the fear. I needed to make sure my family was safe.”

The Khalel fled to Damascus, then Lebanon along the way.

They facing numerous checkpoints set up by Syrian armed forces, no food or water for several days, and no guarantee of refuge but they reached Lebanon, Awad said.

“We had no other choice. We stayed in a monastery. We sometimes had no food for several days. Not even water to wash the clothes we had been travelling in.”

When they had arrived to Lebanon, they booked the next flight to Toronto and contacted with Makarem’s cousin, Bashir Mayaleh, on P.E.I.

He didn’t hesitate.

“Of course I would help them, especially from having to go on those death boats that you see on the news.”

“We had, help of course, from the Newcomers Association and other family members but we were able to help Awad and his family arrive here on P.E.I.”

Awad and his family arrived to the Island on date.

Then have been busy organizing school enrolment for Ghaith and their two 13-year-old daughters, Rand and Rain, but they are challenged by the prospect of finding work.

“We just want to work to gain back what we lost. I have seen a bit of P.E.I. and the beautiful soil you have to grow vegetables. The Island has the same potatoes we have in Baasir, our old home. I use to specialize with these potatoes,” said Awad

Rand and Rain both came to the table.

“We like Canada. Everyone is so organized. Everyone smiles. It is very clean and quiet. But we miss home and we miss our friends,” said Rain.

“This is our new home now,” said Awad.