Update on the Al Atmeh family

Oct 1, 2019 by

From Your Newcomer Committee


Much has happened since our last report in June.  July 19 marked the third anniversary of the Al Atmeh’s arrival in Canada.   The Palins celebrated with them at dinner that weekend.  Ahmad provided tabbouleh and fatusch salads, Randa brought falafels and hummus.  The Palins, Heather, and probably others of you have met the family near Food Basics on King Street; Ahmad or Randa shopping and the children on their way to school at Cootes Paradise.

Any time anyone visits with Randa she is always very positive and cheerful.  She is thrilled to have her Driver’s License and to be driving! She met Frank Palin on one of her bus trips and joked about soon driving a bus herself.  She is determined to get her Level 4 English and will return to classes in September.  She is eager to do well enough to be able to get Canadian citizenship, and she is very interested in finding work.

The children are doing fine.  Sham refuses to speak Arabic (!) but her English is improving.  All three children attended Arabic classes at Cootes Paradise School for a month in the summer (3 hours a day).  Randa and Ahmad are pleased about this because they want the children to be able to speak (by phone) with their grandparents and even the boys are losing fluency with Arabic.

Early in July Ahmad passed his driver’s test and was quickly hired on probation by a Freezer Meat trucking company that operates between here and Windsor.  As a new driver his hours are strictly limited by law.  Unfortunately his supervisor pressured him to accept more hours than he was legally allowed.  Even after Ahmad met with him to explain the problem his supervisor continued to assign him trips which would have required more than the legal time limit.  After several weeks Ahmad resigned and is again looking for work.

After accumulating experience with a landscaping company in St. Catharines, and servicing a number of personal clients, Ahmad offered to provide lawn care for MacNeill’s property.  John and Gini met with him and arranged a contract which pays the same as our previous lawn care providers.  Since then he has reliably arrived at MacNeill each Saturday morning at 10:00 to work at yard cleanup, mowing, hand picking weeds, and assisting Ruby with the rose garden, planting and pruning shrubbery. Each Sunday we witness the quality of his work.

At the beginning of September Ahmad asked Al P. for help with his application for citizenship.  This was hard going for Al; fortunately Ahmad was able to get more professional help from the Immigrant Workers Centre, and applications for him and his children were soon mailed to the citizenship office.  Randa’s English is not yet at a high enough level to apply, but she is back at school.  The applications come at quite a high cost, (close to $1000), but our Newcomer Committee was able to repay Ahmad from funds in the refugee account.

Walter was finally able to speak with the owner of the landscape company which still refuses to pay Ahmad for work he did last summer.  The Newcomer Committee conferred and agreed that for knowingly taking advantage of a newcomer this disreputable business deserved to be named and shamed.  The committee decided we need to support Ahmad by pursuing this matter in small claims court.  This action may not be successful but Ahmad will see that in Canada action can be taken.  Walter submitted the necessary documents to court June 25, 2019.  We are waiting to see how this plays out

Early in August Ahmad invited the Palin’s to a barbecue in Dundas Driving Park with another family, friends of theirs also from Syria.  Al played Frisbee with the boys then made fire with the two fathers.  Sandy helped the mothers prepare food.  Sandy brought asparagus and mushrooms to be kebabed.  Ahmad and his friend discussed Christian services, (the friend’s brother is Christian).  Ahmad expressed interest in attending a Christian service.

It is such a cause for celebration that our shared congregational sponsorship has been such a positive experience and that the Al-Atmehs have taken to their new country with such enthusiasm, initiative and industry.   It continues to be a pleasure and privilege to be in a position to support them.


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