Al Hariri Family Featured at OMAH’s Women’s Day Art Show
Abeer Al Hariri had almost lost hope for a way out of Jordan for her family when she heard back from an Orillia artist offering her a new life in Canada.
“I was sending messages on social media through forums and Facebook pages that said they cared about bringing refugees,” said the 31-year-old from Syria, who estimates she sent out close to 50 messages, before she heard the good news from Kathryn Kaiser. In October last year, they landed in Canada and were brought to stay in Coldwater at the residence of Barry Crooks, a local artist.
In 2012, Abeer, her parents and two siblings left Daraa, southern Syria, for Jordan, but things didn’t work out as well as they had hoped.
“The situation in Jordan wasn’t good,” said Abeer, “it was hard to find a job.
“Many times, I heard people in the street talking about Syrians with hate, like they don’t accept them and they think we enter their country and stole their jobs,” she said. “They think that the United Nations gives us money and we are rich and we don’t need their help.”
Abeer’s father left for Kuwait to find work, while her older sister, Faten, remains in Jordan, with her husband, a Jordanian citizen.
Abeer, an English literature student in Syria and an animator, owing to her natural artistic talents inherited from her mother, was working for a company in Syria. After moving to Jordan, she had to take up a lesser-paying job.
For her mother, Moteaa, who taught art and crafts to widows and children in Syria, it was even harder in Jordan.
“People (in Jordan) don’t care about art, so it was hard to find someone to make an art show for people,” said Abeer.
Having lost all her possessions, including her paintings, Moteaa said, she still believes art can serve as a universal language to help connect people hailing from different backgrounds.
And that is why she and Faten entered pieces in Renewal, the 21st Annual International Women’s Day Art Show on now at Orillia Museum of Art and History.
Although women experience pain and suffering, they continue to give through love, said Moteaa, conversing with Abeer as translator. And that’s what her piece shows.
“When the woman is screaming, she feels a sense of strange sometimes for a few moments, as if her heart and her mind became blank … devoid of problems,” reads part of the text next to her acrylic piece titled Scream.
Her daughter’s work, Barcode, is a message of hope.
“The Syrian people, after the war, became a commodity exploited by clergymen, merchants and the media,” reads Faten’s story. “Despite all the suffering, you can still catch a glimpse of hope for a better life in their eyes.”
And some in her family have already found a better life.
“I would thank Canadians to have us here,” said Majdi, 20, who wants to go back to school and find work as soon as he can. “We found a lot of people that are so nice with us.”
Over the last few months, they’ve immersed themselves in the Canadian experience by celebrating traditional and national holidays, from Halloween to Christmas and New Years, said Kaiser.
“If anyone is afraid of a new culture (coming to Canada), they should get out and make connections and ask questions,” she said. “The best way to teach someone about your culture is to interact with them.”
Watching fireworks, with Kaiser and her family, to ring in the new year was one of the many memorable experiences the Al Hariris are gathering to pool together new memories for life.
While helping Mariposans 4 Refugees, she was able to gain an understanding of the political situation in Syria and wanted to do more than bring over just one family.
She posed the idea of a private sponsorship to her partner, Warren Bennett, who immediately agreed with the plan executed through a sponsorship-agreement holder in Toronto.
Once a connection had been made with Abeer, it was time to raise money. One of the ways Kaiser and Bennett did that was by selling the boards off the barn they had on their property.
Now Kaiser wants to help a Syrian artist who wants to immigrate to Canada and save her father’s works of art.
Meanwhile, the Al Hariris are eager to start life anew. They’re planning on moving to Kitchener, where they hope to start up a home-cooked meals business to support themselves.