Syrian kids all smiles for school in Cowichan

Zaed and six members of his Syrian family arrived in Duncan from the Middle East in June

Six-year-old Zaed still has to listen carefully, but it’s quite apparent the youngster is quickly grasping the English language as he prepares for his first day of school in Canada on Tuesday.

Zaed and six members of his Syrian family arrived in Duncan from the Middle East in June, and have spent much of the summer learning English and discovering their new home in the Cowichan Valley.

Zaed and his younger sister Sidra are enrolling in Alexander Elementary School, and the young man was enthusiastic and bright eyed at the prospect of attending school in his new homeland and meeting new friends.

“I really like it here,” he said in almost perfect English with a smile as he and his siblings jumped around on the playground equipment at the school.

“I met lots of friends at soccer and football camps over the summer, and now I’ll get to meet more next week.”

The family spent a year in a Turkish refugee camp after escaping the ongoing war and turmoil in their Syrian homeland before a group of concerned citizens from the Cowichan Valley got together and sponsored the move to Duncan.

The family includes Mustafa Rasheed Qaddour, his wife Nada and their three young children, including Zaed and Sidar, as well as Nada’s widowed mother, Hayfa Rasheed, and her 22-year-old sister Maha Kayali.

Margaret Woodfall, one of the family’s sponsors, was helping Nada enrol her kids in school on Wednesday.

She said the family spent the summer attending English as a Second Language classes, and Mustafa, who worked as a welder in war-torn Aleppo during better times, has been successful in landing a job in a woodworking facility in Duncan.

“The whole family is integrating into the community very quickly,” she said.

“We’re really pleased with how well this move has worked out for this family, and we’d love to see more families from that area be able to come here as well.”

Woodfall, who is from Duncan, and her husband, have just recently returned from helping out at the many overcrowded refugee camps in Greece, and they intend to return again next month.

“There’s so many there deserving of having a safe place to call home and raise their children,” she said.

“Many are living in horrible conditions with no electricity or running water. It’s great that we were successful in bringing this family here, but there’s so much more to be done.”