#TareqHadhad, #Syria, #Lebanon, #refugee, #Antigonish, #NovaScotisa; #Toronto, #Canada, #PeacebyChocolate, #EnglishasaSecondLanguage, #Arabic, #French, # Punjabi, #indigenouslanguages
Toronto, Jul 3o (Canadian-Media): The story Peace By Chocolate was narrated by Tareq Hadhad. a Syrian refugee to Canada, at Toronto Reference Library on Jul 26 to a large audience.
Vasudha Sharma and Tareq Hadhad
After a short introduction by the interviwer Vasudha Sharma, Broadcast Journalist, Web Writer, Video Producer, Social Media Story teller, Hadhad started narrating the story.
Hadhad said the story contains a universal message of peace for the people of all nationalities and then continued that while in Syria a few years back, his father's flourishing business of 20 years in chocolate as well as much of the homeland was totally destroyed due to a bombing.
This had forced Hadhad and his family to leave everything behind and flee to Lebanon where they lived in a refugee camp with little opportunity or hope.
Then with the help of some friends they were able to cross the Lebanon border again without taking anything.
Having no friends, they registered as refugees at United Nations (UN) and like the rest of the refugees were given numbers.
While waiting at the UN office for registration, when officers started calling the refugees not by their names but by their numbers, Hadhad did not reply when his number was read aloud.
When asked by the officer the reason for not replying, he replied that he was not a number. He felt humiliated that UN did not consider him as Syrian, not even Lebanese but only a refugee.
Next day he again went to UN and offered to volunteer in the health care, the field in which he was experienced as he did not like to rely on the refugee fund.
Hadhad helped set up many health care centers, and ultimately when he with his family was invited to Canada they felt their dreams were coming true.
But when he announced the news of their immigration to Canada, all the family members including his siblings said, “but Canada is too cold.”
Neverthelss they left for Canada and after they arrived in Toronto, Canada in 2015, they were very warmly welcomed and Hadhad realized that these Canadians did not care about their colour, cast or ethnicity. Their main concern was the safety of his family of 9 members.
Hadhad remarked that more than Canadian Government, it was about the Canadians who had raised funds to sponsor Syrians to Canada even without knowing them.
Vasudha Sharma then asked Hadhad to throw light on Peace of Chocolate business.
Hadhad continued that after moving to Canada in December 2015, he with his family settled in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. His father was much interested in starting their own chocolate business and started brewing the chocolate that he did 30 years back.
History repeated itself and soon they were able to rebuild their chocolate company and in 2016 Hadhad founded Peace by Chocolate.
Having worked as a physician in Syria, Hadhad wanted to pursue his career in medicine, due to a great shortage of physicians in Nova Scotia.
But Hadhad did not want to take away any body’s job there and added he had come to Canada to create new jobs with their skills and not take other people’s jobs.
He decided in favour of chocolate business because of their previous experience and their business began to grow.
His siblings had started going to school.
Hadhad’s family registered with the farmers’ market but were not much hopeful that a small community of 4000 people of Antigonish would come to the farmer’s market to purchase the chocolate.
But their amazing response encouraged their business which grew in 3 months, instead of his father’s earlier prediction that it would take at least 20 years before the business could be established.
Hadhad said the message at the core of the company was about spreading peace and added they had started the company more for a cause than to do business.
He said “hate and intolerance sell very easily”, peace along with love were noble values on earth.
Vasudha then asked what he would do to encourage the other refugees coming to Canada.
He replied that tolerance, hard work and perseverance, their entrepreneurship to help their community would be their greatest assets.
Many Syrian refugees who had earlier left for Alberta to seek jobs were called back to Nova Scotia by Hadhad, who offered them jobs in his own business
During the question and answer session with the audience, Hadhad was asked what motivated him to learn the English language and be successful in business, apart from his family’s entrepreneurship.
Hadhad replied that besides being welcomed warmly by the Antigonish community, it organized tours and offered his family everything although they could even when they did not speak even one word of English.
Other helpful assets were the resources offered both by the community, the local libraries and community events which taught them much about the country.
Being in the medical profession while he was In Syria, he had to learn all the ins and outs and ABCs of the business like accounting, business number, registering the business as well its marketing. Hadhad’s father’s distribution of free chocolates to the community members opened connection with everybody in Antigonish.
The best thing was the slogan on the package of the chocolate: One Peace Won’t Hurt.
Hadhad was asked by the audience if he had been interviewed byTed Talk
Hadhad replied he had this opportunity twice, once in Montreal and the other in Dalhousie University.
He was also asked by the audience if Hadhad and his family ever thought of exploring licensing the products to the other countries.
To this Hadhad replied that within a few weeks products would be available from coast to coast.
Then an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher asked Hadhad to give advice on the best ways to teach English language to adult new comers to Canada ,
Hadhad said after spending 3 months in the local library of Antigonish to learn the English language, his advice was that newcomers to the country should not be compelled or rushed to learn English language. Instead there should be interpreters in the room to understand the concerns of the newcomers. One-on-one tutoring and the help of the volunteers in teaching the new comers would be very helpful. Hadhad added that new immigrants learn more from the support of community members than by lesson curriculum in the library. In the end he stressed a great need of a unified method of teaching English to the new immigrants.
The last question by the audience was to name his favourite chocolate.
Hadhad replied that although he liked all brown chocolates, his favourite was the one on which PEACE was written in various languages such as Arabic, French, Punjabi as well as in indigenous languages.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)