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Syrian refugee success story: How one family has economically integrated into society
LONDON, ONT. -- It's been nearly four years since an image of a lifeless three-year-old Syrian boy, lying face down at water's edge after his migrant boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea, sparked international outrage.
This led to an election promise by the federal Liberals to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of 2016.
To date, more than 50,000 have arrived in this country -- 3,000 of those calling London home, according to the latest numbers from Statistics Canada.
For many of the newcomers, top of mind is to secure employment, despite the language barrier.
"So you have Syria war, no eat, no everything, so we went to Lebanon,” said government-sponsored refugee Jalal Gneid, who still struggles with English. "It’s good Canada now, we bought this house, and now me and son works at Toyota Boshko.”
Gneid’s family fled from Syria to Lebanon in 2012, arriving in Canada in June 2017.
In the last two-and-a-half years, Gneid has been able to get his driver’s licence, secure employment and purchase his first family home.
One of the main organizations that assisted the Gneid family through the economic integration process is the London Employment Help Centre (LEHC).
"As a newcomer, everyone who is coming here, they want to put their feet at the door, so they try to find any positions,” said LEHC employment specialist Susan Abdula.
The LEHC says they see clients on a one-on-one basis to try to help them with their resumes, cover letters, and interview skills, eventually connecting them with employers to secure a job.
According to Abdula, LEHC has an 86-per-cent success rate with 71 per cent of their clients finding work and 15 per cent returning to school. Out of their current 1,116 clients per year, 41 per cent of those are immigrants or refugees.
"Our services are actually for everyone, Londoners, newcomers and immigrants. We are available for everyone who needs help, everyone looking for work, we are available to offer our services and facilitate the job search," said Abdula.
Although, Jalal his wife and three sons now live together under one roof, there is still a big part of his family that’s missing -- his daughter, and four grandchildren are still in Syria.
His son Kamal Gneid, 21, who also works with him at Toyota, and helped buy the family’s first home, says he is very content with his new life.
“I see Canada like it’s all safety, very good, and the people, like you talk to the people and they like you,” he said.
For the Gneid family, they have seen much success, but there is still work ahead. As they continue to integrate into the economy, their language and cultural connections are still being formed.