From a very young age, Rateb Khalil of Homs, Syria, loved the hospital and knew he wanted to become a nurse.
“This is my dream,” he says.
After years of hard work, his dream became reality when he graduated from the nursing program at the University of Kalamoon and worked for 25 years at the National Hospital.
When the war in Syria began, Rateb was no longer able to continue nursing, and was left without work for four years. He persevered and opened his own pharmacy where his sons helped him.
“Syria is one of the most beautiful countries and my childhood was very good,” says Rateb. He grew up in a large family with 10 children, but the conflict in their home country has now separated them.
As the danger from war ramped up in his community, Rateb sent his family ahead of him to seek refuge in Turkey.
“We left everything behind us,” Rateb says. “The way to go to Turkey was very hard.” He says his life was endangered in many ways – something that is still too difficult to speak about at times.
Adjusting to life in Turkey was challenging for the family. Rateb couldn’t work as a nurse and couldn’t speak the language. He soon took a job as a barber, and about a year later – in September 2016 – found out he could bring his family to Canada. Rateb says he felt like he was “coming to paradise” – a chilly one, but paradise nonetheless.
In October 2016, Rateb arrived at his new home, Saint John, with his family and just a little bit of English. They’re doing well, though “the English language is the biggest challenge.”
Rateb is happily studying English at the YMCA, but leaving his job at the National Hospital in Homs, where he was a reputable chief nurse, was devastating for him, and he’s “lost here without work.” He says, “I hope I work in any hospital,” and plans to pursue his passion once again in the future – after he learns more English.
Despite these challenges, the Khalil family has seen its share of success. He is proud of the level of English his children have attained. Thanks to the experience working in his father’s pharmacy before leaving Syria, one of Rateb’s son has completed an employment training program and is now a full-time employee at a pharmacy here in Saint John. Rateb is happy to have a home and a car of his own, which he purchased thanks to some help.
Rateb is grateful for the safety Saint John provides and is happy to see that “the faces of all people smile.” He has also been doing his part to help his community; during the harsh flooding in May 2018, Rateb showed no hesitation in offering his home to those who needed help.
“I am a Syrian person and a newcomer here. My home is open for those people affected by the flood, we will share everything together,” he wrote in a post on Facebook.
Rateb has courageously lead his family across the world and taught them the value of hard work. For whatever opportunities come his way, Rateb says: “I am ready.”