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

Just Posted

McCallum says Surrey LRT communication plan close to election is ‘perceived interference’

McCallum ‘gravely concerned’ Surrey and TransLink will violate election financing rules, but city says all rules will be followed

White Rock’s Johnston Road to re-open on schedule: city

One lane in each direction expected to open by Friday at 7 p.m.

Two Surrey volleyballers set to play for Team Canada

Brianna Beamish and Kiera Van Ryk in Japan for FIVB World Championships

Surrey school trustees want to see reliance on portables reduced by 50% in five years

Board votes unanimously to request a meeting with Minister of Education

VIDEO: Neighbours fear impact of B.C. tent city residents

Greater Victoria residents opposed to campers voice concerns at provincial campground

Tornado touches down in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que.

Environment Canada says cars and homes have been damaged by severe thunderstorms and high wind gusts

B.C. premier apologizes for removal of 1950s totem pole at Canada-U.S. border

First Nations say pole was raised at Peace Arch but removed to make way for tourism centre

An unexpected sight: Bear spotted eating another bear in central B.C.

Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief finds bear eating another bear’s carcass

Free vet clinic caters to pets of homeless, low income people

The first such clinic in Langley will take place later this month.

RCMP confirm death of missing BC teen Jessica Patrick

No details on cause were given. Case is under criminal investigation and police are asking for tips.

Extradition hearing set for Lower Mainland developer accused of fraud

Mark Chandler will go before the B.C. Court of Appeals early next year.

CUTENESS OVERLOAD: 2 sea otters hold hands at the Vancouver Aquarium

Holding hands is a common – and adorable – way for otters to stay safe in the water

B.C. teen with autism a talented guitarist

Farley Mifsud is gaining fans with every performance

Most Read