‘Our children are happy and safe’: Trip to Halifax Discovery Centre symbolic for Syrian refugee mothers

Syrian children at the Discovery Centre
Syrian children (left to right) Raghed Diab, Ibrahim Al Nasan, Shady Al Masalmy and Shahd Al Nasan play at the bubble room at the Discovery Centre in downtown Halifax during a field trip there Wednesday (Jeff Harper/Metro)

A trip to Halifax’s Discovery Centre is something many local families would take for granted.

But for a group of Syrian refugee women who all arrived in Canada within the last two weeks, a simple family trip Wednesday was an experience to be treasured.

“Being in Canada means we are very relaxed and comfortable and not afraid. Our children are happy and safe and we know when they go out, they will come back,” said Mayssoun, who arrived in Canada with her husband and seven children on Jan. 16.

“We would also like to be sure you thank the prime minister of Canada for welcoming us and for all he did and has done for us to be here. For what he did for us that other Arab countries did not.”

Speaking through Halifax interpreter Bassima Jurdak-O’Brien, the women didn’t want to be photographed or appear on camera. But they agreed to be interviewed and give their first names.

Chatting as a group, they expressed their gratitude, their eyes shining and their faces lighting up as they spoke. All four are mothers, and said what they appreciated most about being in Halifax was the fact their children were safe and would be educated.

Another mother, also named Mayssoun, arrived in Halifax from Montreal on Jan. 16 with her husband and five children. She is two months pregnant.

As she watched her children enjoying themselves during Wednesday’s Discovery Centre outing, she said the difference between Syria and Canada was “huge.” She wanted to thank the Canadian people for their “beautiful hearts” and for welcoming them.

“The people here are very, very respectful and no matter what we say words would never be able to express our gratitude because the welcoming exceeded any expectations,” she said.

The Discovery Centre outing was one of many ongoing activities organized for Syrian refugees by the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia.