Syrian refugee, Rasha, photographed in Dundonald Park.
Rasha was forced to flee her hometown of Damascus, Syria over two years ago. The safe life she once knew, her job as a flight attendant for Air Syria and her loving surroundings changed dramatically when her family came under threat. After her two brothers were murdered, her own life under imminent danger, she fled and arrived in Beirut, Lebanon. She had left behind her elderly mother, sister and young nieces.
Rasha’s only wish was to reach safety and help her remaining family members leave Syria. She went directly to the UNHCR office in Beirut to seek help and, while awaiting the results of the commission about her future, she worked endlessly under very difficult circumstances. It was an unwelcoming and scary environment for her. After an eighteen month wait, she was told Canada would welcome her. Rasha initially went to Edmonton. There she faced a few obstacles but eventually, wanting to come to the capital, made her way to Ottawa.
With many challenges behind her, Rasha has come a very long way. Thanks to our friends at the United Way, we met up and chatted with her. We are reminded of the importance of stopping our busy lives and taking the time to look around to help others.
Rasha has a beautiful, yet sad look to her. In her mid-twenties, she looks older and more worldly than most young women her age. She is soft-spoken yet strong, speaks with conviction but in an at-times broken voice, is determined yet fragile. Her English has been learned quickly, out of the need to survive, to be understood. She pulls out images of her family and nieces and whispers, “I will die if something happens to my mother or sister.” Through the help of a kind-hearted Ottawan, she has found an apartment and a job. She is taking French classes in her free time, on a daily basis. She wants to do many things. Her dream is to become a police officer. In our city, “I feel safe, finally. I love Ottawa. People are so nice, so friendly.”
Although many questions were exchanged in our encounter, the one that we got an immediate answer to pertained to her family.
Now that you are safe, what is your biggest wish, Rasha?
“Please, I need my family. This is my biggest wish.”
Happy Thanksgiving, Rasha. We so admire your courage and strength. May you be reunited with your family very soon.
For more information about how you can help refugees like Rasha, please contact the United Way Centraide: www.UnitedforRefugees.ca or call (613) 228-6700. For information about Ottawa’s relationship with the refugee crisis please, contact Refugee613: www.refugee613.ca