Revelstoke will welcome a new citizen this winter. Like many others who move to the community Sami Al Ashaoush has a love of mountain culture. Unlike others, Sami’s move to Revelstoke represents not only a new beginning but the end of the oppression and suffering he’s experienced.
“I am not a man and I am not a woman. I am a human being. I am Sami, 23-years-old. I was born in Syria in a mountainous city called Suwayda. But unfortunately I did not belong to people there. I belonged to the mountain nature. I was exposed to many bad things there and persecutions from everyone around me,” Sami wrote in a letter provided to the Mountaineer.
Sami, who is openly gay, says he is looking forward to coming to Canada where he feels people are accepted for who they are.
“Soon I will arrive to a country which symbol is a leaf of nature. This thing attracts me very much to be an active person, to be that person who is classified in his actions, his work, his ethics, his humanity, not his shape, his tendencies and his race. He has a liberal and renewed thought,” he said.
Sami is currently in Lebanon and will make his big move to Revelstoke in December through a blended sponsorship opportunity with Revelstoke for Refugees. When he arrives in Canada he’ll go from being a refugee to a landed immigrant.
Laura Stovel, co-chair of Revelstoke for Refugees said the group is excited to be welcoming Sami to the community. The group formed two years ago when the initial Syrian refugee crisis arose. There were plans to sponsor a family of seven, however that fell through when the family decided to withdraw their application. Revelstoke for Refugees also has plans to sponsor a family of four.
“We felt the community wanted to see somebody come. We had enough money to sponsor one person with a bit of extra fundraising needed,” said Stovel.
In addition to a love of the mountains and being an advocate for LGBTI rights, Sami is also an artist. He uses multiple mediums and often incorporates recycled pieces into his paintings. He has also studied psychology at the University of Damascus in Syria but was unable to graduate due to the ongoing civil war in Syria.
Describing himself as a frank person who dislikes lying, Sami also enjoys living a healthy lifestyle.
“Yoga exercises are my favourite. I love to wear strange clothes sometimes and high heels. And to prepare healthy food. I have many recipes which are healthy and appetizing,” he said. “Now I’m writing those words, I wish the time passes quickly and be in Canada, to feel the feeling that I did not feel in all my life which is safety.”
A group from Revelstoke for Refugees will meet Sami at the airport when he arrives. He will stay with Stovel for December and has a place to rent as of February. Stovel said Sami will need a place to stay for the month of January.
For anyone interested in learning more Revelstoke for Refugees is hosting an update and trauma workshop on December 5 from 5 p.m.—7p.m. at the Revelstoke Community Centre. For more information email Stovel at Lstovel0@gmail.com.
To learn more about Revelstoke for Refugees, visit their Facebook page.