Busy mother finds time to watch over more kids at Halifax elementary school

Taking care of six kids at home makes is a lot easier to work at a school monitoring kids during lunch break.

Rouida Khalaf, 51, came to Canada in 2016 as a refugee from Syria through Jordan accompanying her husband, Mohamad Alsaid, and their six kids. She’s is still waiting for her oldest son to join them from Jordan.

Three months after moving to Halifax in June 2016, she joined a training program called bridge to construction at Nova Scotia Community College in conjunction with the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia.

“I was the only female – one woman with 22 men,” she said.

Khalaf has experience in decoration thanks to the time she spent working with her husband assisting him in his construction job. Her husband has been working for a Halifax construction firm for more than two years.

The training was helpful for her to gain the required skills to find a job. “It was very useful,” she said. “I worked with Killam Apartment for about two years … Our neighbour helped me to get that job.”

Her job was to be handyperson for residents in four apartment buildings in case anything got broken and needed to be fixed. “I quit that job because I didn’t have enough English language skills,” she said.

She is now taking English classes to improve those skills. “I need that to apply for citizenship,” she said. “My kids can apply.”

Last winter, Khalaf found another job as a lunch monitor at Fairview Elementary school. “When a teacher assistant is needed, I would do that job.”

For her, her job at the school is similar to what she’s been doing for years: taking care of many kids at home.

“When a teacher assistant is needed, I would do that job.” – Rouida Khalaf, who came to Canada as Syrian refugee in 2016

Her sons and daughters in Halifax now are between 21 and 10 years old. The oldest son, Khaled Alsaid, finished high school last year and he’s planning to study civil engineering. In the meantime, he is working as a painter after leaving a job at a fencing company. His siblings are still going to school.

“Not one of the Syrian refugees came to Canada from a place where they had a good life,” she said. “We suffered a lot.”

The only thing that is worrying her now is her oldest son, 26, who’s still in Jordan. She has been waiting for him, his wife and two kids since their application was submitted more than two years ago.

They fled Syria for Jordan with the rest of the family in 2011. “I took my kids out of the country when I knew that (the war was) going to start.”

The family lived there as refugees for five years before they resettled in Nova Scotia.

The biggest difference in Canada is that people respect the rules, she said. “There are laws and obligations, and the workers’ rights are guaranteed.”

Although she misses her relatives and friends in Syria, she’s still happy because she lives in a safe place with most of her kids. “At least we have a psychological comfort here.”

“We finally got a chance to live like humans.”

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