Kurdi family settles into life in Canada, but still no luck finding a home

Children are cousins of Syrian boy Alan Kurdi, whose body was photographed on a beach last fall.

COQUITLAM — Shergo Kurdi lifts his shirt to reveal a pale, mottled patchwork of burn scars on his belly and chest — a legacy, he says, of years spent ironing fabric in a Turkish clothing factory after he and his family fled war-torn Syria in 2012.

Now, nine months after arriving in B.C. with his parents and four siblings, the 15-year-old refugee is preparing to enter Grade 10 and wants to one day become a police officer.

“I like … to help people,” Shergo said, explaining that he likes the idea of giving back.

Shergo and his siblings are the cousins of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler whose lifeless body was photographed on the shores of a Mediterranean beach last September. The picture spread across the globe and jarred the world into responding to the Syrian refugee crisis.

In the wake of the photograph, the Canadian government committed to taking in tens of thousands of displaced Syrians, a pledge that paved the way for the Kurdi family’s arrival in late December.

Speaking in broken English at his aunt’s home in Coquitlam, Shergo talked about how difficult his job was in Istanbul. Shifts sometimes lasted as long as 24 hours, he said, and frequently he didn’t get paid.

The teen used a metaphor to explain how his life has been affected by the move to B.C.

“It’s like a flower: (if) he doesn’t have water he (will) die. Come to Canada, he has water and opens up again,” he said.

Shergo’s sister, 16-year-old Heveen Kurdi, also spoke positively about her time in Canada, and of being reunited with her father, Mohammad Kurdi, who spent nine months in Germany trying to get his family out of Turkey and missed the birth of his youngest child.

“The whole family (is) together again,” Heveen said, smiling.

She explained that after finishing grade school she wants to study dentistry at university. She added that she’ll provide free dental work for her family, which prompted her mother, Ghouson Dakouri, to grin and chime in with “Mom is first.”

Still, Heveen said she thinks about her friends and family back in the Middle East every day.

Housing, jobs still concerns

The challenges aren’t over for the Kurdis, as they continue to grapple with finding permanent lodging and securing employment for Mohammad.

The family of seven initially lived with Tima Kurdi, Mohammad’s sister, in Coquitlam. But since June they’ve resided in a group home in downtown Vancouver alongside dozens of other Syrian refugees while they wait for a stable living arrangement to open up.

The Kurdis said the facility accommodates about 70 other people, mostly children, and that their living quarters consist of only two sleeping rooms.

Work is also a challenge. Mohammad, who is a barber, said he must be available to inspect a possible home at a moment’s notice, which makes it difficult to maintain regular, full-time working hours.

Heveen said she hopes they find somewhere permanent to live before September, so she won’t have to risk moving schools and starting over yet again.

Seated on a couch in Tima’s home with his family around him, Mohammad smiled as his youngest child, 13-month-old Sherwan Kurdi, dragged a toy dog through the living room.

Speaking through his sister, Mohammad said he feels happy and proud to see his kids like this, the trauma of their ordeal fading from memory.

“Seeing the kids, it’s happy,” said Tima. “He’s happy.”

Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

ELECTION: Ryan Warawa to run for BC Conservative Party in Langley East

Son of late MP Mark Warawa is former president of provincial party

ELECTION: Langley Township councillor Eric Woodward will run for the BC NDP in Langley East

Will challenge another current Township councillor for the job

Tenor from Langley-based Trinity Western University joins Vancouver Chamber Choir

Rob Workman feels ‘blessed by these opportunities’

ELECTION: Wiens named Green candidate for Langley East

Said party offers “hopeful” alternative to NDP and Liberals

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Father hopes journey to aviation-safety program inspires hope

Former South Surrey resident Greg Sewell hasn’t given up on quest to mandate older-plane retrofits

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Most Read