The thousands of Syrian refugees who have arrived in Canada have faced many struggles. Perhaps one of their biggest right now is finding work.
For Nabil Al Dabei, the stars have aligned with a little help from some friends.
After fleeding his home in Syria, Al-Dabei is at home in an auto body shop in west end Ottawa, doing what he has always loved to do.
“Working good, every day,” says Nabil Al-Dabei, in his broken, newly-acquired English.
We first met Al-Dabei and his family a little over a year ago. They had recently arrived in Ottawa, sponsored by a group through St. Basil's parish.
While Nabil was not proficient in English, he was certainly proficient at fixing banged up cars.
So one member of his sponsorship group hooked him up with the owners at Bemac Auto Body on Clyde Avenue for one day a week about 14 months ago.
“You could tell from the first month that Nabil wanted to work,” says Marianne McLean, with St. Basil’s Refugee Committee, “He had worked all his life, and he had started work at 10.”
Marianne McLean with St. Basil's Refugee Committee.
That one day a week turned into a full-time gig.
“Nabil has turned out to be an exceptional worker; great to have around the shop,” said Jamie Scace at Bemac Auto Body. “His craftsmanship is probably one of the best in the shops.”
The owners of Bemac say they are so impressed with Nabil, they wish there were more autobody “artists” like him.
“He's an excellent worker, Nabil,” said Gaetano Frangione with Bemac, “and I always say I wish we could get at least another 10 employees like Nabil. The new generation today, nobody wants to learn the trade where they're going to get their hands dirty.”
It is the opportunity that thousands of Syrian refugees in Canada are hoping for. Their financial support, either through the federal government or private sponsorship, is running out. And many worry what happens after that, when they must either support themselves or apply for social assistance.
Jamie Scace with Bemac offers this advice for other businesses: “You know, open your doors. They want to work.”
This job has given Nabil a sense of accomplishment and pride. And it’s offered him a chance to work on his English.
“Thank you for every people help for me, for children,” he said. “Thank you Canada.”
We would like to thank CTV Ottawa for reprint permission.