Saturday, November 18, 2023

Peace by Chocolate

 This is a Canadian story, but brought to my attention by an American friend, Janet Gefre.  It is really not just a Canadian story, but sets a good example for the world.

Chocolate is one my weaknesses.  How about you? 

Syria has been in the news.  The point for this story is the huge numbers of refugees created.  With the help of Russia Syria has maintained chaos in the Middle East.  In this case the Hadhad family was non political.  The father, Isham had a love of chocolate that resulted in building a factory employing fellow Syrians.  They were in business for 30 years and shipped all over the Middle East.  When the Arab Spring started, the Syrian government in 2012 openly suppressed parts of the country.  Bombings and deaths were too close for comfort including their own factory.  The Hadhads headed for Lebanon where they were safe, but restricted.

The eldest son, Tareq had studied medicine and was only about a year from graduating.  He managed to be identified as a possible immigrant, but to Canada, a place he had never considered.

In the meantime Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had declared that Canada was going to accept Syrian refugees.  That upset some, but he felt that they would help to offset demographic changes in the country.  A church group in the small town of Antigonish decided they wanted to participate and started organizing.  Most refugees imagined they would be better off in the big cities.

Finally Tareq was given the go ahead with the promise that he would be able to have his parents come later.  In the middle of December he was confronted with Canadian weather and found himself shoveling snow.  He learned that his medical education would not count towards being a Canadian doctor.  He would have to start to scratch. 

He focused his energy on the chocolate business and set high standards for quality.  His father Ishem soon arrived and helped move the idea forward.   Realizing their cultural and language limitations they worked with This is Marketing.  It was Neil Stephen who came up with the name Peace by Chocolate.  Christian Allaire came up with the slogan "One peace won't hurt."

Before they had a factory going and quickly needed a bigger one. which they decided to stick with Antigonish.  They have achieved nation wide distribution.  Justin Trudeau told the world about the contribution of this Syrian immigrant.  Shortly Tareq not only met Trudeau he also met with Barrack Obama who was impressed.

Tareq also had siblings brought over and they each adjusted to the cultural differences.  There were few hijabs around, but Antigonish also got used to it.  

They were grateful for Canada and the citizens of Antigonish.  3.5% of their profits go to Peace on Earth Society.  The idea came after the Fort McMurray wild fires and they held fundraising to help the evacuees.  In 2018 they registered the name with the Nova Scotia government to support other projects across Canada and further to help the cause of peace.

 Jon Tattrie, the author has a Master's Writing degree from University of King's College and is a journalist at CBC Halifax.  He has written two fictional and 5 non fiction books.  Subjects have included Cornwallis, and Mi'kmaq history.  Recognized that likely some of the women to be interviewed held back arranged for his wife (also works for CBC) to interview them.  I had wondered how authors claim to know the feelings of their characters, but in this case he is reporting what they told him.  

My own experiences with Syrians has been recounted elsewhere.  My regular mechanic had repeatedly tried to deal with a tire leak.  At a gas station I was steered towards a man who claimed he could fix it.  True enough the problem was solved and the next tire problem I had was taken directly to him.  I learned he was a Syrian.  When Canada treats immigrants right we all benefit.

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