SAGA Stories

Don Buskirk

SAGA (SAnctuary GAbriola)

Tuesday, April 12 2016

Imagine moving to a remote Middle Eastern town; safe but with no money or relatives, unable to read or speak Arabic, with four children to support, not knowing how one makes a living in this place.

Mzyed and Shekha, our Syrian refugees, are in a similar situation on Gabriola. They have received amazing support from our community, and those who have spent time with them are impressed by their friendliness, intelligence and good humour. 

But even simple tasks are daunting when you’re unfamiliar with technology and can’t read English.

While Mzyed and Shekha were in Nanaimo taking ESL classes, SAGA volunteers Guy and Cheryl were caring for Dalen and Abdulah. Guy thought it would be fun to show the kids how he makes pita bread. 

When Mzyed and Shekha returned, they were greeted with a stack of pita that Shekha said “tasted just like home.” She wants Guy to show her how to use Canadian appliances, utensils, and ingredients to make pita “like home.”

Learning English is tough for an Italian but harder for an Arabic speaker - different alphabet, calendar and much more. Mzyed and Shekha (taking their youngest Farah and Ayman) spend six hours a day to get two hours of English lessons in a large class in Nanaimo.

Gabriolans have shown they can teach quality ESL adapted to our Syrians’ needs, so SAGA will soon be taking over more English instruction, in consultation with the Nanaimo program - saving 16 hours a week of travelling means more time for learning English and other skills, plus less childcare by non-family. 

SAGA continues working to bring to safety an Eritrean family who John Van Praet met in Qatar. Their danger is real, but many obstacles remain. 

Friday, May 13, marks our next Great Value for Your Money fundraising event, a Beer & Burger Fest and raffle at the Surf. Stay tuned!


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