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Syria was a great place to grow up … until the revolution happened, two brothers who fled the country said Thursday in St. John’s.
“It changed the country, the way of life,” Abdullah Shbat said during the 31st Rabbittown Learners Program dinner held Thursday in St. John’s.
Shbat and his brother, Ahmad, both participated in and completed the adult basic education (ABE) Level 1 program at Rabbittown.
Ahmad was approached for comment, but declined.
Abdullah said that after the revolution, the Russians and Iranians came into Syria helping to change the entire dynamic of life for not only his family, but all citizens of the now war-torn country.
“Before I left Syria, I saw helicopters come in shooting rockets at houses. It was bad to see the houses burning, the people on the streets running,’’ Abdullah said.
“So we had no choice. We had to flee the country without anything,’’
Now 23, he has been living in St. John’s for two years. The journey to get here started about seven years ago when the Shbat brothers and their parents decided they had to leave their homeland to find a better life, and made their way to Jordan, where they stayed for the next five years.
“We were lucky. Some people left and lost everything and everyone. I got out with my brother, my parents, and we landed in Jordan,’’ he said.
“I was able to get a job at a restaurant for two years with my friend, but eventually that came to an end.”
The tough decision was made to apply for immigration to Canada, and after all the paperwork was cleared they arrived here in St. John’s and set out on a path for a better life.
Once they were settled, he entered the Rabbittown Learners Program to learn English and start making a life for himself.
“I am not sure what I want to do in the future, but my goal is to be a pilot,’’ he said.
“I want to attend flight school and I hope to do it here,’’ he added, with the possible goal of becoming a commercial pilot.
He said he has not been looking for work yet until he becomes proficient with the language. His time has been focused on going to school and trying to learn as much as possible. In addition he has been researching more information on how to get a driver’s licence.
Abdullah said life has been different here than in Syria, but he is not complaining. He said the weather is an obvious difference.
“There is a lot of snow here and the winter is long,’’ he said.
“But I like it here. The people are friendly and nice, and the city is quiet and safe.’’
Now that he has completed his ABE Level I course, he has his sights set on attaining his Level II designation, which he will enter Academy Canada to try to achieve.
The following is a list of awards and certificates that were presented at the 31st Rabbittown Learners Program dinner held on Thursday:
Presentation of Awards
Shirley Hickey Memorial Achievement Award: Brkti Mengsetab
Margie Mahoney Dedication Award: Peggy Tizzard
Rabbittown Learners Program Inspiration Award: Carol Ann Gregory
Excellent Attendance Awards: Peggy Tizzard, Aimerance Kisasu
Doris Barrington Scholarship Award: Aimerance Kisasu
Education Fund, Sisters of Mercy and Presentation Sisters Scholarship Award: Mohammad Saleh
ABE Level I Graduates
High School Graduates (May 2019) Academy Canada
Former Rabbittown Learners Program Students: