Our Members

The NSSS is made up of 300+ Nova Scotian-Syrians. This is a place where member stories will be shared.

Loai Al Rifai

“I was a doctor in Syria. I want to be a doctor here.”

Loai arrived in Halifax with his wife and 2 young children in November 2016

In Syria, we love children so much. We have big families- six, seven, eight kids. We prefer kids more than our job or money. I have seven brothers and sisters. We had a big family and a big house in Syria before the war. We had a good life. We lived in a very safe place before the war.
In the morning, we go to our jobs. I am a doctor and worked in the hospital. After work, I came back to my family. We worked together in the afternoon on our farm of olive trees and grapes. This was our life.

Canada is so different from Syria. I want to be a doctor here. I live in a small apartment with my wife and two kids, five and three years old. Last year, my wife and I studied English during the day at Dalhousie. At night, we came home to prepare the food for our kids and have something to eat before going to bed.

Evening is so different in Syria. Most evenings, we go to see friends. We sit together and visit, sometimes three or four times a week. We speak and laugh and talk, sometimes until Eleven at night.

I wanted to make something like that here in Canada. I wanted to create a community to help each other and teach our kids our language and culture. Our culture is a good culture.

So we built a school. We had problems finding a place and teachers, but we tried and now we have ten teachers and a school with more than one hundred kids. We teach them our language and culture. I hope this school is continued forever. I can’t stop now after two or three years.
We try to erase the memory of the war from our kids. Our kids who are fourteen and fifteen years old, they remember everything. We try to erase that from their soul.

The young children don’t remember our country. They can’t go back again. My home is Syria, but my kids, no. Their home is Canada. We know this. We try to keep something for them- we try to keep our culture and learn Canadian culture with them.

We want to build jobs. There are two thousand people from Syria in Nova Scotia. Very simple things from our culture can become businesses. We can do something here.

Every day I call my family in Syria. Someone is hit- our neighbour’s home has been destroyed; they have lost their land. People are dying and dead from the war. Your brother has been arrested. He has lost his life. Your mother is sick. There are no physicians. No jobs. There is only bad news from home. Only war and destruction. It is a very bad situation. I don’t like to speak about the subject.

When we have bad there, we can’t enjoy here so much.

But we try to start again our life.


“I want to repay this community that helped me“

In Syria, I was a teacher. I taught English as a second language in high school and to adults. On a usual day, I’d come home after work, have lunch, maybe rest for an hour, then take my children to the lake next to our home. We’d spend the whole afternoon together playing.

I have five children; a son and four daughters. Waseen is my son. My son is in Germany now; he didn’t come here. He went to Germany by sea. He was supposed to have a reunion for us in Germany but didn’t get his permanent residence there. Six months after he went to Germany, we applied for sponsorship here.

First, we were in Jordan, then Sudan, then Egypt. After three years, we were accepted here in Canada. Finally, we were able to come to Nova Scotia.

When we came here, we were so afraid. This was a new country; we didn’t know anyone here. You don’t know your neighbours; everything is strange, even the language. My children were afraid so much.

Now they are very happy. It’s so different from when we first came. We want to enjoy every day.
Every day we go to the lake or sea, or go to the parks. We want to have fun. Last summer we didn’t have a car but we bought a car two months ago. It is summer now and we want to go everywhere. We go to the Valley for strawberries. We go to the beach. Sometimes we go to places and I don’t know the names. If they have fun, it’s okay for me.

I am very proud of my children. They will be native English speakers. I want them to go to university and get degrees. They like to study. They are doing their best. I promise to take them around Saint Mary’s, Dalhousie, and Mount Saint Vincent to show them the departments, the coffeeshops, and the students. My eldest daughter wants to be a journalist.

I don’t have work right now but I am looking for a job. I have different projects in my mind, short-term objectives and long-term goals. I want to teach the newcomers and am studying for the CELTA. This is the first step. My long-term goal is to get a master’s degree in education.
I want to repay this community that helped me. I want to write about the people here- the way they encouraged us, the way they helped us, and visited us at our home. They came to say, “We are with you.”

We have no worries about our life. We can hope again. Something has changed in my soul. Everything you need, you can find here.


“If I had more ovens and more space, I could be a real baker here in Nova Scotia“

I have been in Canada for one year and seven months. I left Syria and went to Jordan in 2012 because of the war in my country. I lived in Jordan for five years and worked as a baker. When I lived in Syria, I worked with computers. My life needed to change. I wanted a better future for my children. My sons are now in grade nine and grade six. I would love to work with my sons when they grow up. I want all of us to become citizens of Canada. I am making candy again. If friends need candy, they call me and I make them in my home. But my home is very small and I would like to make more and grow a business. There are so many types of Arabic sweets. If I had more ovens and more space, I could be a real baker here in Nova Scotia. There is nothing like it here and I would like to share these Arabic specialties with everyone.


``I like seeing my friends at school``

I am nine years old and I am in grade four. I like drawing. I like everything. When I grow up I want to make a cartoon on my own and be an artist. I like that we are learning our language.


“I want to be a helicopter captain.``

I want to be a helicopter captain.


“I want to be a police officer``

I’m really good at English. I help my mom with her homework.
I want to be a police officer.


“I want to be a fashion designer“

I like drawing, colouring, and designing clothes. I want to be a fashion designer.
Every day we learn something new.


“Here, we are building an Arabic school so our children will remember their language and culture“

My name is Moayad. I have been in Nova Scotia for two years. In Syria, I was a high school teacher. Every day, after teaching, I helped to run a small market and work in our large garden. In Syria, everyone has land and a garden. I am now working with a carpenter and in the evening, I go to the language school to learn English. I want to learn English so I can help my family.

My daughters are five and nine years old. Before the war, Syria was a good place to have a family but not anymore. Children cannot meet or go to school. It is not safe to gather together.

Here, we are building an Arabic school so our children will remember their language and culture. I teach the children there on Saturdays. I am very proud of our school. It is safe for us to be together. I like most of all to watch the children play and be happy again.


“I want to be a baby doctor.“

I want to be a baby doctor.
I like to come to Arabic school so I don’t forget my language.