Syrian refugee in P.E.I. scheduled to address U.N. on World Children’s Day

The Guardian - Basel Alrashdan could speak little English when he first arrived to P.E.I. as a refugee in late December 2015.

Now less than two years later, the 12-year-old Charlottetown resident is preparing to share his family’s story at the U.N.

Alrashdan and his family were among the first families to arrive on P.E.I. under the federal government’s promise of resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees.

Having learned to speak English fluently since he arrived, Alrashdan described his new surroundings as “perfect.”

“I’m proud to be a Canadian and I’m proud for coming here,” said Alrashdan, who lives with his parents, seven-year-old sister, six-year-old brother and a newborn brother who was born in Canada. “I really like living here.”

Alrashdan will tell the story of his family’s journey to the 193 members states at the U.N. Headquarters in New York on World Children’s Day, Nov. 20, provided he can get the required documents to travel.

Staff members with the P.E.I. Association for Newcomers to Canada (P.E.I. ANC), with support from Charlottetown MP Sean Casey, are currently assisting Alrashdan in the process of obtaining his travel documents.

The address will help raise awareness of displaced children living in desperate situations.

Staff from the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) interviewed Alrashdan and his family in June while filming a documentary on refugee immigration to P.E.I.

The documentary makers were impressed by Alrashdan’s ability to share his story and invited him to share his first-hand experience

“I was born in Syrian and I think the war started when I was six. After two years we moved to Jordan. I lived there for three years (before coming to Canada),” he said, adding that it was difficult to leave behind friends and family members.

However, the experience has been worth it.

Alrashdan said his future plans are to improve his English writing. He also hopes to eventually study to become an electrical engineer.

“It’s better and safer (in Canada). The people here are kind and it’s been good for my parents,” said Alrashdan, who also thanked the P.E.I. ANC.

“They were the ones who helped us when we first came with furniture and everything.”