Strabane WI hosts International Night with Syrian refugee speakers

Community Mar 06, 2017 by Julia Lovett Flamborough Review

Three women who escaped Syria last year with their families spent an evening sharing food and conversation during the Strabane Women’s Institute International Night held last week at Mounstberg Community Hall.

“Now we can see the happiness in our children[’s] eyes,” said Roula Abou-Atwan.

She, along with Eiman Elshafie and Sonia Elnabrees – all sisters in-laws – came to Hamilton one year ago Feb. 2 and are happy in their new home.

“We found a lot of things that we lost in our country like (a) furnace – peace,” Abou-Atwan added, noting it was hard to keep warm in Syria.

Five local United Church communities, including Carlisle-Kilbride, Rock Chapel-Lynden United, Westdale and Lowville, sponsored the women and their families to come to Hamilton last year – a process that took three years of planning.

“The family arrived. There were 19 of them. Mothers, grandmothers, children, cousins, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law altogether, and one lady was expecting a baby,” said longtime Strabane WI member Linda Baine, noting the woman who initiated the process is a family member who has been living in the Hamilton area for 16 years.

Baine got involved with the project because she knew the minister (Rev. Christina Paradela of Rock Chapel). As her husband John is an Optimist Club member, she suggested that the service club get involved and last summer, they held a benefit barbecue.

The women, who are Palestinian, say they have lived through three conflicts: the gulf war, the Iraq war and, most recently, the war in Syria.

“Imagine yourself, like our life, we passed three wars … when Iraq go to Kuwait and there’s a war, then the Kuwaiti government said, ‘We don’t want the Palestinians anymore in Kuwait, you should go away,’” said Elnabrees, noting the family spent 14 years in the country.

“If you remember Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq at that time, he said, ‘OK, you can come here to Iraq.’ We went there, we continued our lives, we continued our studies, we finish our university. Then another war happened in Iraq."

The families spent 14 years in the country before the United States invaded and it was during this war when Elshafie’s father died. While the war raged on, between the Sunni and the Shia Muslims, once again, the Palestinians were expelled.

“Our husbands can’t work. We were in a terrible situation, really,” she said, noting it was then that they went to Syria for nine years before war broke out between the rebels and the Assad government.

“We are so tired … so of course when we came to Canada, when we said we feel peace, we mean peace.”

While they have found a new life in Hamilton, they still worry for family members who remain in Syria and Iraq. The women said they give thanks every day they are in their new country and are now working to improve their language skills so they can continue on with their professions. Elnabrees is an accountant and her husband a pharmacist.

“Sonia was just telling me that he just got the letter to say that he’d been accepted to sit the exam,” said Baine, referring to the University of Toronto pharmacist exam.

Meanwhile, Abou-Atwan, Elnabrees and Elshafie are studying English so they can enrol at Mohawk College to upgrade their professional skills.

The March 1 meeting was a question and answer format, and the WI members asked about the refugees' background and family but they also asked questions that were a bit more involved.

Elnabrees explained that while she and the other women are well educated, where they were living and the fact that they were women meant they were not allowed to work. By the time they were in Syria, they also had young children that needed to be looked after as daycare was too expensive.

“We are housewives, we have children, young children,” said Abou-Atwan who has three, aged 10, nine and five.

Since the women were between the ages of 11-14 when they began to move, they said their families worried for them and would not permit the girls to show any skin.

“When we travelled the first time, my father said to us, ‘Don’t wear … short sleeves,’ yes, ‘Because we have [a] long road, a danger[ous] road, cover yourselves,’” Abou-Atwan said.

Now that they are in their new home, they are moving ahead with their lives but hope that one day, they can bring more family members over. In the meantime, they will continue to learn the customs and language and see their children succeed.

Strabane WI hosts International Night with Syrian refugee speakers

Community Mar 06, 2017 by Julia Lovett Flamborough Review

Three women who escaped Syria last year with their families spent an evening sharing food and conversation during the Strabane Women’s Institute International Night held last week at Mounstberg Community Hall.

“Now we can see the happiness in our children[’s] eyes,” said Roula Abou-Atwan.

She, along with Eiman Elshafie and Sonia Elnabrees – all sisters in-laws – came to Hamilton one year ago Feb. 2 and are happy in their new home.

“We found a lot of things that we lost in our country like (a) furnace – peace,” Abou-Atwan added, noting it was hard to keep warm in Syria.

Five local United Church communities, including Carlisle-Kilbride, Rock Chapel-Lynden United, Westdale and Lowville, sponsored the women and their families to come to Hamilton last year – a process that took three years of planning.

“The family arrived. There were 19 of them. Mothers, grandmothers, children, cousins, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law altogether, and one lady was expecting a baby,” said longtime Strabane WI member Linda Baine, noting the woman who initiated the process is a family member who has been living in the Hamilton area for 16 years.

Baine got involved with the project because she knew the minister (Rev. Christina Paradela of Rock Chapel). As her husband John is an Optimist Club member, she suggested that the service club get involved and last summer, they held a benefit barbecue.

The women, who are Palestinian, say they have lived through three conflicts: the gulf war, the Iraq war and, most recently, the war in Syria.

“Imagine yourself, like our life, we passed three wars … when Iraq go to Kuwait and there’s a war, then the Kuwaiti government said, ‘We don’t want the Palestinians anymore in Kuwait, you should go away,’” said Elnabrees, noting the family spent 14 years in the country.

“If you remember Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq at that time, he said, ‘OK, you can come here to Iraq.’ We went there, we continued our lives, we continued our studies, we finish our university. Then another war happened in Iraq."

The families spent 14 years in the country before the United States invaded and it was during this war when Elshafie’s father died. While the war raged on, between the Sunni and the Shia Muslims, once again, the Palestinians were expelled.

“Our husbands can’t work. We were in a terrible situation, really,” she said, noting it was then that they went to Syria for nine years before war broke out between the rebels and the Assad government.

“We are so tired … so of course when we came to Canada, when we said we feel peace, we mean peace.”

While they have found a new life in Hamilton, they still worry for family members who remain in Syria and Iraq. The women said they give thanks every day they are in their new country and are now working to improve their language skills so they can continue on with their professions. Elnabrees is an accountant and her husband a pharmacist.

“Sonia was just telling me that he just got the letter to say that he’d been accepted to sit the exam,” said Baine, referring to the University of Toronto pharmacist exam.

Meanwhile, Abou-Atwan, Elnabrees and Elshafie are studying English so they can enrol at Mohawk College to upgrade their professional skills.

The March 1 meeting was a question and answer format, and the WI members asked about the refugees' background and family but they also asked questions that were a bit more involved.

Elnabrees explained that while she and the other women are well educated, where they were living and the fact that they were women meant they were not allowed to work. By the time they were in Syria, they also had young children that needed to be looked after as daycare was too expensive.

“We are housewives, we have children, young children,” said Abou-Atwan who has three, aged 10, nine and five.

Since the women were between the ages of 11-14 when they began to move, they said their families worried for them and would not permit the girls to show any skin.

“When we travelled the first time, my father said to us, ‘Don’t wear … short sleeves,’ yes, ‘Because we have [a] long road, a danger[ous] road, cover yourselves,’” Abou-Atwan said.

Now that they are in their new home, they are moving ahead with their lives but hope that one day, they can bring more family members over. In the meantime, they will continue to learn the customs and language and see their children succeed.

Strabane WI hosts International Night with Syrian refugee speakers

Community Mar 06, 2017 by Julia Lovett Flamborough Review

Three women who escaped Syria last year with their families spent an evening sharing food and conversation during the Strabane Women’s Institute International Night held last week at Mounstberg Community Hall.

“Now we can see the happiness in our children[’s] eyes,” said Roula Abou-Atwan.

She, along with Eiman Elshafie and Sonia Elnabrees – all sisters in-laws – came to Hamilton one year ago Feb. 2 and are happy in their new home.

“We found a lot of things that we lost in our country like (a) furnace – peace,” Abou-Atwan added, noting it was hard to keep warm in Syria.

Five local United Church communities, including Carlisle-Kilbride, Rock Chapel-Lynden United, Westdale and Lowville, sponsored the women and their families to come to Hamilton last year – a process that took three years of planning.

“The family arrived. There were 19 of them. Mothers, grandmothers, children, cousins, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law altogether, and one lady was expecting a baby,” said longtime Strabane WI member Linda Baine, noting the woman who initiated the process is a family member who has been living in the Hamilton area for 16 years.

Baine got involved with the project because she knew the minister (Rev. Christina Paradela of Rock Chapel). As her husband John is an Optimist Club member, she suggested that the service club get involved and last summer, they held a benefit barbecue.

The women, who are Palestinian, say they have lived through three conflicts: the gulf war, the Iraq war and, most recently, the war in Syria.

“Imagine yourself, like our life, we passed three wars … when Iraq go to Kuwait and there’s a war, then the Kuwaiti government said, ‘We don’t want the Palestinians anymore in Kuwait, you should go away,’” said Elnabrees, noting the family spent 14 years in the country.

“If you remember Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq at that time, he said, ‘OK, you can come here to Iraq.’ We went there, we continued our lives, we continued our studies, we finish our university. Then another war happened in Iraq."

The families spent 14 years in the country before the United States invaded and it was during this war when Elshafie’s father died. While the war raged on, between the Sunni and the Shia Muslims, once again, the Palestinians were expelled.

“Our husbands can’t work. We were in a terrible situation, really,” she said, noting it was then that they went to Syria for nine years before war broke out between the rebels and the Assad government.

“We are so tired … so of course when we came to Canada, when we said we feel peace, we mean peace.”

While they have found a new life in Hamilton, they still worry for family members who remain in Syria and Iraq. The women said they give thanks every day they are in their new country and are now working to improve their language skills so they can continue on with their professions. Elnabrees is an accountant and her husband a pharmacist.

“Sonia was just telling me that he just got the letter to say that he’d been accepted to sit the exam,” said Baine, referring to the University of Toronto pharmacist exam.

Meanwhile, Abou-Atwan, Elnabrees and Elshafie are studying English so they can enrol at Mohawk College to upgrade their professional skills.

The March 1 meeting was a question and answer format, and the WI members asked about the refugees' background and family but they also asked questions that were a bit more involved.

Elnabrees explained that while she and the other women are well educated, where they were living and the fact that they were women meant they were not allowed to work. By the time they were in Syria, they also had young children that needed to be looked after as daycare was too expensive.

“We are housewives, we have children, young children,” said Abou-Atwan who has three, aged 10, nine and five.

Since the women were between the ages of 11-14 when they began to move, they said their families worried for them and would not permit the girls to show any skin.

“When we travelled the first time, my father said to us, ‘Don’t wear … short sleeves,’ yes, ‘Because we have [a] long road, a danger[ous] road, cover yourselves,’” Abou-Atwan said.

Now that they are in their new home, they are moving ahead with their lives but hope that one day, they can bring more family members over. In the meantime, they will continue to learn the customs and language and see their children succeed.