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‘This is my home now’: Syrian refugee marks three years in Halifax

WATCH ABOVE: Ahmad Alzoubi was among the first wave of Syrian refugees to arrive in Halifax in December three years ago. Elizabeth McSheffrey reports.

It’s been a long and exhausting three years since Ahmad Alzoubi was forced to leave his home in Syria and flee the country.

Alzoubi was among the first wave of Syrian refugees to arrive in Halifax in December three years ago, and at the time, he wasn’t able to speak a word of English.

“The challenge is how to communicate with people, how to build relationships, how to build networking,” he said.

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READ MORE: Obstacles remain for Syrian refugees to gain Canadian citizenship

The civil war in Syria not only destroyed Alzoubi’s home but dashed his dreams of getting a degree in marketing.

But when he arrived in Halifax, he began studying English at the Keshen Goodman Library in Halifax, with support from the immigrant services association of Nova Scotia (ISANS).

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Now, three years later at the age of 25, Alzoubi has mastered the basics and secured a job as a bank teller. But the ambitious young man wants to continue to grow.

“I’m more confident, more open,” Alzoubi said. “I can now look for a second job or third job. Next three years? Making $80,000.”

READ MORE: Syrian refugee who spent 7 months stranded in Malaysian airport arrives in Vancouver

According to Jennifer Watts, the CEO fo ISANS, Alzoubie’s story is not unique to Syrian refugees or other immigrants.

Once newcomers conquer the language barrier, Watts says, they are able to make critical contributions to Halifax and to Canada — contrary to some who believe refugees are a drain on the country’s resources.

“It’s wonderful for us to see [them] build capacity in terms of what they bring. Often that’s not understood, is that people see we’re providing them with resources,” Watts said.

“But in a very short turnover, people make tremendous contributions to our community.”

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As Nova Scotia and Canada continue to accept refugees and immigrants from other countries, Alzoubi’s advice to them is simple: Work hard and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

“Don’t be [scared], this is a wonderful country, especially Halifax. I like it,” he said.

“My dream was to come here and live in Canada. This is my home now.”

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Nova Scotia is home to more than 1,700 Syrian refugees, most of whom reside in Halifax.

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