Meeting mothers from Syria
Saturday, I got to meet real-life superheroes. They were refugee mothers,
recently arrived from the Middle East having escaped Syria. All of them had
come to a giant playdate organized by World Vision and the Mennonite Central
Committee for their families.
ways, the playdate wasn’t much different from a typical Canadian party. There were craft tables, face painting, and a
bouncy castle. How many times have I
stood talking with moms at similar events, while our children played? But in other ways, Saturday couldn’t have
been more different.
Many of the
families knew very little English, so spoke with me through translators. Some had been in Canada only a couple of
weeks. Others had been here longer, but
hadn’t met any other Syrians in the towns where they’re living. The mothers greeted one another with a sense
of immediate recognition, even if they’d never met before. For in a sense, they knew one another
The wonder of mother Bareaa
name means “a wonderful thing,” and the name fits. I’ve never met a woman so generous with her
warmth, her smiles and her hugs. Despite
the cruelty and deprivation she’s endured, Bareaa was so quick to see and feel
the joy that she could see all around her.
And do everything that she could for other Syrian refugee mothers and
“Sister, I came today because I wanted to meet other
Syrians,” Bareaa, told me. “I want to
help them with anything they need. My
sponsored family gave me so very much – and I want to give some to others.”
thanking and hugging any Canadian she spoke with, Bareaa was looking out for
the other Syrian children at the playdate.
“All of the
children are happy and smiling,” she said, her eyes filled with joy. “I can see that they are doing well.”
playdate was a happy event, I didn’t want to spoil things by asking painful
questions. But as the children ran and played together, I found myself looking
over at the mothers, watching them.
Many of the
women carry memories that their new friends in Canada may never be able to
understand. Bareaa shared one story.
were in the crowds, leaving, we saw one woman running with a cushion,” she
tells me. “She was carrying a cushion.”
I kept listening, curious. Of all the
things to bring with her during a sudden exodus, why did this mother choose a
cushion? I soon realized I was processing
this story as someone who’s never experienced the shattering effects of
she had grabbed her little boy,” explained Bareaa, her warm eyes filling with
tears. “She looked up suddenly and said
to us ‘It’s not my son!’”
I needed to
step away for a while, and pull myself together before returning to the party.
My message to Syria’s mothers
I didn’t get
to tell the mothers at the party everything that I wanted to. And there are thousands of Syrian mothers
living in Canada whom I’ll never meet at a playdate.
I want to say to them:
sister. I honour you. I would do anything to take away some of the
pain that you’ve experienced. And I know that I’ll never understand what you
carry around inside.”
“But your children
– they’re so beautiful. And you’ve used
all of your resources – your love, your patience, and your creativity – to keep
them alive and healthy. You’ve taught
them when there was no school and comforted them when there was nothing
comforting to say. You’ve made ‘home’
in camps, tents, and on the side of the road.”
“I will do
whatever I can, through my donations, through my prayers and through my
writing, to help carry your children to safety and happiness.”
International Women’s Day, please join me in thinking of Syria’s mothers. Your
donation to Syrian refugees overseas, or here in Canada, can do a world of