Syrian chef cooks up support in North Van for fellow refugees

February 21, 2019

By North Shore News |

It starts with a meal and ends with an education.

The sweet smell of orange blossom fills Honada Alparawi’s kitchen last Friday, as she prepares a traditional rice dessert.

“I hope to open a Syrian food restaurant in North Vancouver and make my special dishes,” says Alparawi, brimming with newfound optimism.

There have been unfathomable obstacles in her life up until this point that didn’t give Alparawi much hope for the future.

Her husband made the perilous journey first, while the family waited behind in Syria.

One month later Alparawi and her four children fled Damascus on foot amidst all the “killings, bombings and shootings” and travelled for four hours to make it to a refugee camp in Beirut.

As Alparawi carried her youngest son in her arms the whole way, she tried to avoid stepping on the dead bodies of refugees who didn’t make it and were caught in the crossfire.

“Two of our children have disabilities and the youngest one was in very poor condition because his finger had been crushed in a door and he had two surgeries to fix it,” says Alparawi, aided by a translator.

Once the family made it to the border they waited for 14 hours until they were allowed into Lebanon.

Living in limbo in the Lebanese refugee camp for four years was dreadful for Alparawi and her family.

With no income, they couldn’t afford to get sick because it would cost money to see a doctor. Alparawi suffered through a debilitating kidney condition without proper medical attention.

There was no spare change to even buy water for the kids.

Four years later, and finally some good news: The family would be sponsored to come to Canada.

Alparawi says the long odyssey to a foreign land was made easier because of the kindness of strangers.

“I feel like I am with my family. When I was in Beirut, I felt that I was living with strangers, but as soon as I arrived at the airport, I felt like I was with my family.”

Orbiting around her central North Vancouver apartment on Friday, Alparawi is preparing for a feast.

An Evening of Syrian Cuisine – a multi-course traditional dinner, finished with dessert – is a fundraiser to support a school in Turkey set up by Canadian volunteers from the Syrian Kids Foundation.

Al Salam School is located about one mile away from Turkey’s busiest border crossing with Syria.

On the day the school opened in 2012, Syrian Kids Foundation volunteers expected 300 students. However, the demand was incredible: 1,000 children were lined up at the doors.

The school tries to be an island of stability in a sea of instability, explains Syrian Kids Foundation board member and Lonsdale resident Lauryn Oates, who is co-hosting the special dinner on Saturday night.

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