A Syrian refugee’s hard work and determination is paying off, just eight months after arriving in Calgary.
Tarek Nemr, 24, touched down at YYC Calgary International Airport on April 24 and he hasn’t wasted a minute — turning the city of cowboys and skyscrapers into his new home.
“I have more friends than I can count,” Nemr chuckled shyly. “I have a job and a girlfriend.”
Global News began following Nemr’s story in December 2015, after the Canadian government announced it would be welcoming 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canada by February 2016.
Nemr lived as an asylum seeker in Jordan for more than three years after fleeing war-torn Syria.
He wasn’t allowed to own a vehicle and while he worked in a restaurant, he was never promoted due to his status.
“We first met him on the side of the road in a suburb of Amman in Jordan,” said Salima Stanley-Bhanji with the Calgary Centre for Global Community.
Stanley-Bhanji had been shooting a film project when she was first introduced to Nemr. Their first meeting was just 45 minutes long and in that short window of time, he left a lasting impression.
“We saw this individual with a huge amount of potential and ambition and desire, basically, to make his life into something.”
The Calgary Centre for Global Community decided to take up the challenge of privately sponsoring Nemr. The process was made more difficult due to the fact that Nemr is single and male.
“At that time, Tarek was in his early 20s and in a high-risk category, in terms of the possibility of radicalization or acts of terrorism,” Stanley-Bhanji said.
“In that regard, he was seen very much as a suspect.”
Now, Nemr has a place of his own and a full-time job serving up lattes to sleepy Calgarians at Starbucks.
“In my job now I’m like everyone,” Nemr said. “I was promoted to supervisor three days ago, so it’s becoming perfect.”
And Starbucks couldn’t ask for a better employee.
“He creates very special moments for our customers,” Starbucks district manager Esther Copp said.
“He shares his story with at least one customer every day and they have engaged with him with such warmth and support, it’s remarkable.”
Nemr hasn’t stopped setting goals for himself. He now plans to apply for university and see how far his dreams will take him, in a city full of opportunity.