Thursday, January 21, 2016

Meet Aya

Hi Mad Mom-dent followers! its been a while! I know, I know! I have been MIA.. again. To give you a quick recap since my last post... shit mountain, crisis of faith, regaining faith, first defense, job hunting, and volunteering with Syrian newcomers BOOM!

 Since November 2015, in some capacity or other, I have been volunteering to help integrate Syrian newcomers. I am usually coordinating schedules for volunteers, managing donation logistics and facilitating the back-end processes.Then, along with 3 other totally bad ass  ladies, I started an initiative: Peel Clothing Collective ( in anticipation that newcomers to the Peel region would require clothes and  basic necessities and thus collaborated with SAV Syria. Super cool right ? Actually, it's pretty, mundane stuff. Until yesterday... I finally got to interact  personally with some of the families who have arrived in Canada. Newcomer families is a term I use often and in my mind at least,  its a pretty loaded term which has taken on an almost mythical quality that requires quotations marks to convey its significance. I am also guilty of falling into the trap where building up a mystique around a concept  typically comes at the expense of its parts. Thankfully, yesterday I  had the opportunity to deconstruct the  idealized abstract and met 'real' people in the "newcomer family. I heard their stories and we connected. We all talk 'the-talk' about our shared humanity but  I can honestly say I felt that yesterday. It did not matter that we spoke different languages or that there were a thousand things that set us apart. We were drawn together by a simple link forged out of laughter, openness and lots of frantic hand gestures!

Today I am going to introduce you to Aya. A beautiful 19 year old girl who I am completely enamored with. Firstly, because she is the same age as Sherry who will always and forever be my first princess and secondly, something about her just felt familiar.  When I walked in, Aya, her shy 20 year old husband and gorgeous 1 year old were sitting by themselves and appeared lost and overwhelmed. I walked up to them and said hello and started playing with Husne, their little boy and then through my friend who speaks Arabic, we got to the names and details. I told Aya that she was beautiful and you should have seen the smile that lit up her face. As the evening progressed I met a lot of families and so many children who made my heart swell a couple of sizes  with their wit and laughter. A little boy, Ahmed came up to me, held my hand and said "sahaba" which I later found out meant friend and lets just say, the room got very, very dusty. As the evening progressed, I kept going back to check in on Aya. At one point, I could tell that she was getting tired holding Husne so almost instinctively and without a thought, I put my hand out and wordlessly, mother to mother, she handed me her baby and I did the Mom Rock (you know the one where you when you sway side to side with baby perched on the hip). It was easy, natural and there was no hesitation. Aya, I discovered was a vivacious young lady with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes which hid the horrors she had endured. Aya was separated from her family two years ago when they were fleeing Homs. She somehow made it to Jordan where by sheer luck, she bumped into a  school mate with soulful green eyes. This boy, who eventually became her husband, was himself adrift in the sea of humanity and naturally, both of them tethered to each other. Eventually, they were few of the lucky ones who made it to Canada. Aya has not met her family yet. She found out that they may be in one of the numerous camps across Jordan but is awaiting verification from UNHCR who is doing amazing work to reunite families. Despite my non existent Arabic and Aya speaking only a couple of words of English, we somehow managed to connect and interact on a level that frankly, defies understanding.

 Another thing I  discovered is that Twinkle, twinkle little star, has the power to soothe any fussy child! Even one who only understands Arabic. Thank you Beethoven, oh great one! Aya asked me what I was singing and I tried to describe it to her but she thought I was singing about the roof! She gave me a quizzical look and probably thought I was a bit crazy until another amazing 17 year old, Minaal translated for us. I also found out that star in Arabic is called Najmeh (which also happens to be my friend's name.. and all this time, I never thought to ask her what her name meant!). Aya and Minaal together were very curious about how old I was and I told them that I was too old which of course led to a "let's guess madmomdent's age game" ( yikes!). I am very happy to report that they thought I was 26.. .we'll just leave it at that OK!!!!! I am 26!! Deal with it bitches!

I had lots of fun helping Aya pick some clothes for her. While she was browsing, the teenager in this young mother emerged.  She gleefully tried everything and excitedly held it up, laughing with sheer joy that only a 19-year old can muster at the thought of shopping for clothes.
Speaking of clothes, I also had the opportunity to help 5 year old Lotus. Of course everything had to be pink and she had the cutest way to let me know if she liked something. If I picked something she didn't like, she would emphatically shake her head and lyrically say "no no no no no no no"and if something met her approval, it would be the same multi syllabic ye- ees yees, yes). We picked dresses, skirts, little jackets( all pink of course). When we were done I spied the most perfect yellow dress and held it up for her to inspect. I wish I could describe the light in her eyes. She was a bit hesitant to take it and was thinking I was going to ask her to give me something  back instead. So she started rummaging through her shopping bag and very sadly took out a pink jacket so that we could trade. I told her she could keep both and got a spontaneous, warm hug as my reward and then she told me through our translator that she would think of me whenever she wore that dress ( damn that room was soo dusty!). Lotus was 2 when she left with her family and in 2 weeks had already picked a lot of English . That was an amazing thing I noticed with all the kids. Its been only 2 weeks and most of them have picked up basic rudimentary English words! Even Aya and her husband are picking up English and I'm sure with the right opportunities, they will be speaking it soon enough!

Before I left for the evening to go home, I hugged Aya  like she was my own and through a translator she told me that she wishes that God blesses me always and maybe her wish came true, because meeting her was indeed a blessing. 

She and her little family are going to be moving into their own apartment in Scarborough and I wish them nothing but joy and laughter from this point on. May they find success, peace and love in this new chapter  and may they find the strength to forget the horrors of their past.

Effervescent Aya

If any body wants to volunteer to help us sort, gather and organize for the families please feel free to visit our page for volunteer events. Thank you!!!

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