At the annual Youth for Others Day, Loua Almously shared his story as a Syrian refugee living in Jordan for two and a half years. Photo courtesy of the Canadian Jesuits International

Youth challenged to learn more about crisis in Syria

By  Sara Florez, Youth Speak News
  • May 2, 2017

A former Syrian refugee challenged high school students to become more involved in the world by shocking them with stories of the harsh realities of life in a refugee camp.

Speaking at an event called Youth for Others, Loae Almously said it was witnessing the hardships of refugee living that motivated him to do more.

“Most people were living in tents and had to walk for a distance and stay in lines to get bread and food,” he said at the April 25 symposium. “Barefoot children were going to school carrying rice bags to hold their poor school stuff. During this I started to think of doing something to help my people.”

Almously challenged more than 50 high school students from across the Greater Toronto Area to become better informed about the world and help in any way they could.

“I think a lot of students still don’t know what is happening in Syria so it’s important for them to have some stories on the war and the victims of the war from someone who’s been a witness to it,” he said.

He shared his experience as a Syrian refugee living in Jordan for two and a half years where he also volunteered with the Jesuit Refugee Service. He came to Canada in 2015 and now works at the Arab Community Centre of Toronto to raise awareness about the plight of refugees.

Marcelo Tanglao, a Grade 10 student who attended the event at Mary Ward Centre, was moved by the stories told by Almously.

“It’s kind of beautiful to hear the stories Loae shared today and I hope to gain the ability to help people who are in desperate need of care, just like Loae continues to do for Syrians,” said Tanglao.

Almously was one of many guests invited to speak at the annual event organized by Canadian Jesuits International. Other speakers discussed issues such as the work of the Jesuits with indigenous people in India and Canada, serving with dignity and the Syrian crisis.

 The theme of this year’s event was “Journeying to Change.” Students were encouraged to understand that everyone is on a journey in life and wherever you are on your journey, it is possible even for students to enact change.

It was inspired by Pope Francis and his address to young Cubans in 2015.

“Pope Francis really emphasized the importance of youth being engaged with the world, entering into dialogue and journeying together towards the path of hope which will then lead to change,” said Uju Umenyi, CJI youth and outreach coordinator.

For the past five years, CJI has used the Youth for Others event as a school outreach program. The term “youth for others” was first introduced by Fr. Pedro Arrupe. It was later borrowed as a term for men and woman to describe how people are meant to live with others and for others.

Previous events informed students about engaging more in justice issues in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

“I firmly believe in the empowerment, engagement and autonomy that young people have,” said Umenyi. “Whether it’s starting up a club at school, participating in initiatives that already exist, manifesting awareness and fund raising for an organization that you support or going for a march.”

Towards the end of Almously’s keynote speech, he expressed how fortunate he feels to live in Canada.

“This is a beautiful country with unbelievable, helpful people who didn’t stop supporting and helping my family and I,” he said. “Canada has brought a lot for us and even though its just been two years, we feel like we belong among the diverse Canadian community.”

(Florez, 21, is a third-year journalistm student at Humber College in Toronto.)

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