Refugee says support ‘overwhelming’


Kassem Hussein
Kassem Hussein

After earning his ticket as a professional electrician in Syria, refugee Kassem Hussein is starting a new life with his family in Leaside where, through the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office, he is learning English — the most critical step, he says, in establishing himself in his adopted land.

He and his family first went to Ghana after fleeing the civil war in Damascus and arrived here in December.

The support from the community, he says, has been overwhelming. Local services provide food, clothing, housing and guidance. But when all is said and done, as Hussein says, “Our survival depends on being able to communicate in English.

“In Ghana, we spoke some simple English but no one told us when we made a mistake.”

His wife Mariam and their young family of two sons and a daughter are also learning the language. The adults are at the 1 Leaside LINC classes offered by TNO, while the kids go to the school.

Tehreem Nathaniel, who leads the English conversation groups for TNO, said the family is highly motivated.

“They interact well and are very eager to adapt and assimilate — they have good questions and bring a fresh perspective to the class.”

Kassem and Mariam Hussein both say that there is a big cultural difference between Ghana and Canada and that the kids are more happy here.

The Husseins like Leaside and the fact that it is safe, quiet and everything is close, so there is no need to go far to shop.

Mariam said people don’t make her feel awkward about the way she dresses so she feels comfortable here. She wants to study and plans to get a certificate/diploma degree in psychology.

Nathaniel says the families are using all the opportunities the settlement office and the LINC staff are providing them.

“They trust the settlement worker they have been assigned and have no hesitation asking for help and acknowledging the good services they are getting at TNO,’ she said.

About Ken Mallett 40 Articles
Ken Mallett has spent his entire working career of 30 + years as a newspaper reporter and television news writer/producer. He worked for ten years as a foreign correspondent in London England for the Sydney (Australia) Morning herald and Toronto Star before moving into television news as a writer/producer for the CBC and later Director of News and Current Affairs for Global Television. He is a regular contributor to Leaside Life.