AREF ALSHAIKH AHMED
What do you like about Hamilton?
I like the multiculturalism city. When I walk in Hamilton’s streets, I see people from different countries, of different races, different believes and religions. They respect each other and live together in peace. I like winter. It is nice and poetic. I like Hamilton’s trees and flowers, its gardens and its grass. I like seeing people enjoying a cup of coffee while walking.
What is your favorite thing to do here? What is your favorite place?
My favorite thing is to work with people, to give any help that I can. I like to see people happy, active and enjoy their life. That is why I volunteer with YWCA in the “Seniors Peer Connector Program” and with the Royal Place Tenant Association where I live.
I like and do appreciate the facilities that the library provides to its visitors. I like to go there and to other educational centers. I like participating in educational opportunities to build my skills.
Tell us one thing that people may not know about you?
I am a community activist. I highly support gender equality and the empowerment of women. I enjoy my life in Canada and I greatly appreciate what Canada is doing to alleviate the hardship of war victims. I am persistent, enthusiastic, patient and flexible.
What do you do and what are your aspirations?
For the time being, I am attending a 3-month “Workplace Preparation Program” course at Mohawk College and “McMaster Discovery Program”. I am also taking an online course on Interpretation through Mohawk College. I participate in a lot of social activities related to tenants’ rights as well as helping my neighbors in translating school papers and forms of their children. My aspiration is to have a chance to help new immigrants to settle, adapt and integrate as quickly as possible in Canada.
What is your message to other newcomers that are coming to Hamilton? Any advice?
My message is to Look Forward Not Backward, work hard, learn the language, don’t consider it as a barrier, prepare yourself for work, think seriously in the future of your children and plan together for this future.
Tell us your story
I am from Palestine. I wasn’t born then when armed strangers came to my village killing everybody. My brothers and sisters were very frightened. My father was too concerned for his family. He quickly collected some clothes and fled away for their safety. They thought that they could come back home once the strangers had left the village, but they didn’t. My family was told later, “Your home was no more your home because another country had given your country to other people”.
After 65 years, history repeated itself. On 2013 armed clashes erupted in the place where I was living in Damascus. I quickly put some clothes in the car and fled away with my family expecting that I could come back after a couple of days, but I couldn’t. I left Syria to Dubai and to Egypt where the UNHCR facilitated our immigration to Canada as refugees. We arrived on the 1st of December 2016.
I am married with a Syrian woman and have five children- two sons and three daughters. My sons are in Germany, two daughters are in UK, London and the 3rd one is in Dubai.
In Damascus, I lost everything I made during my life including the new house that I had built in 2010, my job, my car, my friends and relatives.
I have a bachelor degree in English Literature from Damascus University and a Certificate in Social Work ffom Illinois University. I have over 20 years experience working in senior posts for UN Organizations: the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).
My challenge now is to find employment in my area of expertise. Even though, I am 66, I am healthy, active and feel much younger than my age. I dream, as my father used to say, to see my children around me, sharing a meal together.