Syrian Welcome Dinners connect Torontonians and refugees

Community Dec 15, 2016 by Tara Hatherly East York Mirror

After coming to Canada as Syrian refugees, it was a year-and-a-half before Khalil Aldroubi and his family were invited to a Canadian home for dinner.

Aldroubi, his wife and their five kids came to Canada in spring 2015, but it wasn’t until this fall that the family had an opportunity to connect with a local family over some Canadian food. It was a program called Syrian Welcome Dinners, founded by Torontonian Melissa Jones, that made it happen.

“When I met the family from Canada in the program, to connect, I felt so happy and also all my family was happy,” Aldroubi told Metroland Media Toronto in an interview in English and Arabic, with program volunteer Anis Nasr translating when needed.

Aldroubi and his family were so excited to visit a Canadian home for dinner that he likened it to people anxiously awaiting Christmas morning.

“It was the same feeling for all my family and I waiting to meet the (Canadian) family,” he said. “I’m so happy that happened with my family. The dinner had a very strong impact, not only on myself, on my children too. We have tremendous gratitude.”

There are many other Syrian refugees who have yet to experience an evening in a Canadian home connecting with new friends over a meal, said Jones.

“It seems to be quite common that once Syrians are here, and I’m referring to government-sponsored ones, they aren’t really fully integrating with society or getting a chance to meet locals,” she said. “This is a way to really reach out and help the cause, and help these families that have been through so much, and with a low commitment and really making an impact and difference on their integration into the city.”

The Danforth resident was inspired to start the program when she met a newly arrived Syrian family and left wanting to do more to welcome them to her community. Having lived abroad before, she also sympathized with trying to integrate and make connections in a new country with a new culture.

She started networking with her friends and community to find hosts, and now she’s turning to the rest of Toronto to help welcome the city’s newest residents.

“I’ve heard from both sides, the hosts and the Syrians, that it’s just been a memory that they will always cherish,” Jones said. “It’s a bit odd, you know to have a stranger over in your house for dinner, but for the people that are open to it, it seems to be really moving and touching.”

Dale Hildebrand and Marlene Sagada hosted Aldroubi and his family for dinner.

“The dinner was great,” Hildebrand said. “They said they were going to have us over for Syrian food sometime, so that’ll be fun. We’re looking forward to that.”

Aldroubi admitted he was nervous when his family came to Canada. He held back tears recalling what it felt like to arrive and realize they were in “a beautiful country” where refugees are respected and appreciated the same as everyone else.

Adapting to a new life doesn’t happen instantly for refugees. Khalil shared how hearing a helicopter overhead triggered fear in him and tears from his small child, with flashbacks of war still fresh in their minds although they were on Canadian soil. He said there’s no way to compare his new home in Canada with the one he left behind.

“Someone asked me, how do you find Canada? I say here I can sleep. Because in my country, I can’t sleep, because I fear for our safety,” he shared. “You can hear bombs. I’m so scared, because at any time, not just in the day, someone can come to take anyone from my family and can kill them.”

Something as simple as dinner can help people who have been through so much, Hildebrand said.

“It’s all fine and good for us to approve of our government’s policy to bring refugees to Canada, but to actually be able to interact with them, to welcome them directly, I think that’s something that many Canadians could do,” he said.

“These folks are just hungry for learning about Canadian culture and really want to make that connection to Canada. Just go out on a limb and invite a family in, you’re really going to enjoy it.”

Visit www.welcomedinners.ca for more information.

Syrian Welcome Dinners connect Torontonians and refugees

City residents encouraged to invite Syrian refugees over for dinner

Community Dec 15, 2016 by Tara Hatherly East York Mirror

After coming to Canada as Syrian refugees, it was a year-and-a-half before Khalil Aldroubi and his family were invited to a Canadian home for dinner.

Aldroubi, his wife and their five kids came to Canada in spring 2015, but it wasn’t until this fall that the family had an opportunity to connect with a local family over some Canadian food. It was a program called Syrian Welcome Dinners, founded by Torontonian Melissa Jones, that made it happen.

“When I met the family from Canada in the program, to connect, I felt so happy and also all my family was happy,” Aldroubi told Metroland Media Toronto in an interview in English and Arabic, with program volunteer Anis Nasr translating when needed.

Aldroubi and his family were so excited to visit a Canadian home for dinner that he likened it to people anxiously awaiting Christmas morning.

“This is a way to really reach out and help the cause, and help these families that have been through so much, and with a low commitment and really making an impact and difference on their integration into the city.”

“It was the same feeling for all my family and I waiting to meet the (Canadian) family,” he said. “I’m so happy that happened with my family. The dinner had a very strong impact, not only on myself, on my children too. We have tremendous gratitude.”

There are many other Syrian refugees who have yet to experience an evening in a Canadian home connecting with new friends over a meal, said Jones.

“It seems to be quite common that once Syrians are here, and I’m referring to government-sponsored ones, they aren’t really fully integrating with society or getting a chance to meet locals,” she said. “This is a way to really reach out and help the cause, and help these families that have been through so much, and with a low commitment and really making an impact and difference on their integration into the city.”

The Danforth resident was inspired to start the program when she met a newly arrived Syrian family and left wanting to do more to welcome them to her community. Having lived abroad before, she also sympathized with trying to integrate and make connections in a new country with a new culture.

She started networking with her friends and community to find hosts, and now she’s turning to the rest of Toronto to help welcome the city’s newest residents.

“I’ve heard from both sides, the hosts and the Syrians, that it’s just been a memory that they will always cherish,” Jones said. “It’s a bit odd, you know to have a stranger over in your house for dinner, but for the people that are open to it, it seems to be really moving and touching.”

Dale Hildebrand and Marlene Sagada hosted Aldroubi and his family for dinner.

“The dinner was great,” Hildebrand said. “They said they were going to have us over for Syrian food sometime, so that’ll be fun. We’re looking forward to that.”

Aldroubi admitted he was nervous when his family came to Canada. He held back tears recalling what it felt like to arrive and realize they were in “a beautiful country” where refugees are respected and appreciated the same as everyone else.

Adapting to a new life doesn’t happen instantly for refugees. Khalil shared how hearing a helicopter overhead triggered fear in him and tears from his small child, with flashbacks of war still fresh in their minds although they were on Canadian soil. He said there’s no way to compare his new home in Canada with the one he left behind.

“Someone asked me, how do you find Canada? I say here I can sleep. Because in my country, I can’t sleep, because I fear for our safety,” he shared. “You can hear bombs. I’m so scared, because at any time, not just in the day, someone can come to take anyone from my family and can kill them.”

Something as simple as dinner can help people who have been through so much, Hildebrand said.

“It’s all fine and good for us to approve of our government’s policy to bring refugees to Canada, but to actually be able to interact with them, to welcome them directly, I think that’s something that many Canadians could do,” he said.

“These folks are just hungry for learning about Canadian culture and really want to make that connection to Canada. Just go out on a limb and invite a family in, you’re really going to enjoy it.”

Visit www.welcomedinners.ca for more information.

Syrian Welcome Dinners connect Torontonians and refugees

City residents encouraged to invite Syrian refugees over for dinner

Community Dec 15, 2016 by Tara Hatherly East York Mirror

After coming to Canada as Syrian refugees, it was a year-and-a-half before Khalil Aldroubi and his family were invited to a Canadian home for dinner.

Aldroubi, his wife and their five kids came to Canada in spring 2015, but it wasn’t until this fall that the family had an opportunity to connect with a local family over some Canadian food. It was a program called Syrian Welcome Dinners, founded by Torontonian Melissa Jones, that made it happen.

“When I met the family from Canada in the program, to connect, I felt so happy and also all my family was happy,” Aldroubi told Metroland Media Toronto in an interview in English and Arabic, with program volunteer Anis Nasr translating when needed.

Aldroubi and his family were so excited to visit a Canadian home for dinner that he likened it to people anxiously awaiting Christmas morning.

“This is a way to really reach out and help the cause, and help these families that have been through so much, and with a low commitment and really making an impact and difference on their integration into the city.”

“It was the same feeling for all my family and I waiting to meet the (Canadian) family,” he said. “I’m so happy that happened with my family. The dinner had a very strong impact, not only on myself, on my children too. We have tremendous gratitude.”

There are many other Syrian refugees who have yet to experience an evening in a Canadian home connecting with new friends over a meal, said Jones.

“It seems to be quite common that once Syrians are here, and I’m referring to government-sponsored ones, they aren’t really fully integrating with society or getting a chance to meet locals,” she said. “This is a way to really reach out and help the cause, and help these families that have been through so much, and with a low commitment and really making an impact and difference on their integration into the city.”

The Danforth resident was inspired to start the program when she met a newly arrived Syrian family and left wanting to do more to welcome them to her community. Having lived abroad before, she also sympathized with trying to integrate and make connections in a new country with a new culture.

She started networking with her friends and community to find hosts, and now she’s turning to the rest of Toronto to help welcome the city’s newest residents.

“I’ve heard from both sides, the hosts and the Syrians, that it’s just been a memory that they will always cherish,” Jones said. “It’s a bit odd, you know to have a stranger over in your house for dinner, but for the people that are open to it, it seems to be really moving and touching.”

Dale Hildebrand and Marlene Sagada hosted Aldroubi and his family for dinner.

“The dinner was great,” Hildebrand said. “They said they were going to have us over for Syrian food sometime, so that’ll be fun. We’re looking forward to that.”

Aldroubi admitted he was nervous when his family came to Canada. He held back tears recalling what it felt like to arrive and realize they were in “a beautiful country” where refugees are respected and appreciated the same as everyone else.

Adapting to a new life doesn’t happen instantly for refugees. Khalil shared how hearing a helicopter overhead triggered fear in him and tears from his small child, with flashbacks of war still fresh in their minds although they were on Canadian soil. He said there’s no way to compare his new home in Canada with the one he left behind.

“Someone asked me, how do you find Canada? I say here I can sleep. Because in my country, I can’t sleep, because I fear for our safety,” he shared. “You can hear bombs. I’m so scared, because at any time, not just in the day, someone can come to take anyone from my family and can kill them.”

Something as simple as dinner can help people who have been through so much, Hildebrand said.

“It’s all fine and good for us to approve of our government’s policy to bring refugees to Canada, but to actually be able to interact with them, to welcome them directly, I think that’s something that many Canadians could do,” he said.

“These folks are just hungry for learning about Canadian culture and really want to make that connection to Canada. Just go out on a limb and invite a family in, you’re really going to enjoy it.”

Visit www.welcomedinners.ca for more information.