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

Curated Second-Hand Market joins farmers’ market

Event hosted by The Reach Gallery Museum takes place July 20 in Abbotsford

Alleged Abbotsford crime boss loses bid for jail release while awaiting extradition hearing

Jazzy Sran is accused of conspiring to smuggle cocaine into Canada from the U.S.

Family of Chilliwack pilot killed in Honduras crash creates memorial scholarship fund

Parents, sister of Patrick Forseth fundraising to pay to send aspiring pilots to flight school

RCMP use helicopter and police dog to search for suspect on Sts’ailes First Nation

Man known to police fled an allegedly stolen vehicle and firearm on the reserve north of Chilliwack

Public hearing Monday for huge development near downtown

A 599-unit development has been proposed for a large site just north of the historic downtown

Feds lowered poverty line, reducing the number of seniors in need: documents

Liberals introduced a poverty line that was below the prior low-income cutoff

BCHL: Alberni Valley Bulldogs have been sold

Victoria company has purchased BCHL team, but will keep it in Port Alberni

Justin Trudeau’s carbon footprint revealed in ranking of world leaders

Travel company ranks 15 world leaders’ foreign flight CO2 emissions

“Does Kirby care?” B.C. First Nation’s group using geo-targeted ads in Houston, Texas for justice

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council has called out Kirby Corporation for the Nathan E. Stewart oil spill

Trudeau announces $79M investment for 118 more public transit buses across B.C.

Contributions from municipal to federal level to fund more buses in a bid to cut commutes

B.C. woman wins record $2.1 million on casino slot machine

‘That night was so surreal … I wasn’t able to sleep or eat for the first two days,’ she said

After B.C. dad’s death, Technical Safety BC wants changes to trampoline park rules

Jay Greenwood, 46, did ‘a series of acrobatic manoeuvres prior to a fall that caused serious injury and cardiac arrest’

Cars keyed on BC Ferries after alarms bother dog on board

Delta police arrested one passenger on suspicion of mischief

$900M settlement reached in class action on sexual misconduct in Canadian military

After facing criticism, the government moved to begin settlement proceedings in early 2018

Most Read