The following speech was written for a Grade 7 English class by a Coquitlam middle school student named Kamal. It came to The Tri-City News via the support group Tri-Cities Friends of Refugees Task Group and is being reprinted for Canada Day with the family’s permission. Kamal has adapted to life in Canada, and his speech helped his peers become more empathetic towards him, according to his teacher. Now 13, Kamal enjoys playing basketball and is confident and articulate in the English language he has learned after just two and a half years in this country.
What is Canada? To me it is a beautiful place because it has so many mountains, so much nature and it is full of kind people.
Hi, my name is Kamal and I am from Syria. l was born in Daraa, near the border of Syria and Jordan. When I was born, there was no war in Syria.
I can remember going to school and playing marbles with my friends in the sand. I was the marbles guy. I was the best kid at playing that game. I had 10,000 marbles; all different colours. I had so many that I sold them to my friends — 5 marbles for 10 cents, and everyone wanted to buy them and play with them.
We had three farms at my home in Syria and every week we would go to the farms and get water for the trees. We had lemon trees and beech and olive.
We would go pick fruit from the trees and give it to everyone in our family. Our house was really big and there were four houses next to each other with all of our family. At night time, we would come together and sit with each other and talk.
One day, when we were coming back from the farm, there were some police drinking on our balcony.
This is when the war came to our home.
The police were over all of the mosques and they started killing people from there. People were walking and getting bread or shopping and the police were killing them on the street. Soon, we couldn’t go and get any food or anything because the police were everywhere, just randomly killing people, even small kids.
We went to our food farms and we lived there, and we couldn’t see any family or go anywhere. We had to stay hidden in our farmhouse. We ate the vegetables and fruit that grew there but we couldn’t get food or anything from anywhere else.
After some time, the police started to be nice with us and mom and dad started to visit with their family again. But it didn’t last for very long. Soon, there were a lot of helicopters and bombs everywhere.
Then my dad was killed.
It was very dangerous and we had to leave our home. We escaped to Jordan by car. I was nine years old. We took nothing from our home.
We came to Jordan and we found my uncle there. My mom and my two brothers and my sister went there with me. My uncle taught us about the money there and he taught us how to ride the buses. We went to school and I got a new friend and a good teacher. My best friend in Jordan was Omar; he was from Syria also. Kids from Jordan went to school until 12 o’clock and then Syrian people went to school after that.
After three years, we had a call from Canada asking us if we want to come to Canada to live. My mom says “Yes, please” because she wants us to learn English and make a better life for us. I was so sad and was crying because I will miss my teacher and my friends. My mom was telling me things will be better and my mom was right.
The first day I was in Vancouver in a hotel called Sandman. It was the best hotel but I still missed my friends in Jordan. We slept at the hotel for three months and then we moved to Cottonwood Avenue. My family stayed there for one year. I went to Mountain View elementary school and my teacher was Mr. W. He was a good teacher. He taught me how to play basketball and he invited me to a running club.
I miss visiting my grandma and my grandpa, and going to the farm and sleeping there and getting some fresh lemons. I miss fishing with my dad. I miss playing marbles in the sand.
Today I am learning English and my mom is so happy about it. I will reach my goals in Canada. My mom was right about me making new friends. I have good friends here and good teachers. I have a good life here.
I am Kamal. l was born in Daraa, in Syria. I am happy to call Canada my home. And thank you for listening to me.