SASKATOON – Freedom is something Doha Kharsa has only known for a year. She’s a Syrian refugee that came to Canada in 2014. Even though she’s safe today – she still can’t shake the memories of yesterday.
Her memories include bombs, shootings and the possibility that her kids wouldn’t see better days.
“You know the war … it was a disaster for us,” said Kharsa.
“It’s like a nightmare. All the world is destroyed around us. And we were only focused on how to escape, where to go to survive.”
Kharsa and her five kids knew they had to flee when a bomb exploded right next to the children’s school. Just last week, her husband and 18-year-old son arrived in Canada. Still, the family’s troubles aren’t over. Kharsa’s parents and relatives are still in Syria.
“We’re not enjoying our lives anymore. We’re just living for our kids but we’re not enjoying the life. It’s very hard. It’s not like before,” she added.
While Justin Trudeau has pledged to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees into the country before the end of the year, Kharsa is anxious about everyone she’s left behind.
“Our friends, our neighbours, relatives, all of them … I don’t know if they’re still alive or dead,” said Kharsa.
In September, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall announced he would put up $150,000 to help support refugees and work with settlement groups and agencies to make best use of the money.
But as the clock ticks, organizations in Saskatoon are also feeling the need to step up and prepare.
The Saskatchewan Association of Immigrant Settlement and Integrated Agencies (SAISIA) is an agency working with the Saskatoon Refugee Coalition to help. It’s director says traditionally, Saskatoon alone sees around 300 refugees a year. But this year, that number is expected to climb.
It’s a challenge the agency is happy to face.
“We don’t like the word challenge … because people are dying. They are going through situations that cannot be imagined,” said Beaulah Ghana, director of SAISIA.
“We’ve all seen the pictures on the TV or the drowning.”
Instead, Ghana says this is an opportunity for the city to show compassion.
Agencies like hers are committed to making sure refugees get the support they need once they arrive. But it’s not just enough to arrive – the liberal government has to figure out how to give Syrian refugees a chance to flourish through employment, health care, education and more. And that costs money.
Till then, Doha Kharsa and many others in Saskatoon will be waiting.
“We’re just praying and hoping for a miracle. A miracle,” said Kharsa.