A Syrian refugee and YWCA client smiled big as he cut the ribbon for their settlement services grand opening on Thursday afternoon.
Omar Al Ali has been in Canada for two years with his wife Aisha Al Kadah, but their four adult children—who they’re trying to sponsor—remain in Syria.
Ali, speaking through a translator, expressed what it’s been like living in Canada.
“The YWCA services have been very well, but his wages and income, it’s very low because they don’t have kids (here) and they don’t get that child tax, so it’s like the minimum for him to just leave and pay for rent and food and everything. Bills, monthly bills,” translated Mouez Hnid with Settlement Workers in Schools (SWIS) for the YWCA.
Ali also spent two years in Jordan, just south of Syria, after escaping the war.
He said he goes to English classes at the YWCA five days a week—which will now all take place at 65 – 11th Street East, previously the Wesley United Church.
Classes used to be scattered around the city in church basements or the YWCA’s location on Central Avenue.
The building is also used for filling out applications, meeting with clients, housing settlement counsellors and contains the SWIS office.
Settlement Services Manager Carolyn Hobden said their 90 funded spots for language classes are currently almost filled, and that the new building makes it easier for their clients.
“It’s one location that they need to learn how to get to,” she said.
She was touched to see Ali declaring the new location open.
“That was really special. He is one of our oldest clients who has arrived in Prince Albert and he arrived as a Syrian refugee with zero English, and even to hear him speak a few words in English and to be able to come here daily and do classes is a really nice reward,” said Hobden.
Ali cut the blue ribbon and put his hands up in the air for the several people who attended, all huddled around in a circle.
Everyone was invited to take a tour of the new building where there was also live music and food.