The story of Nawar Sahli, is one of endless challenges, courage, perseverance, hope and destiny. It is a story of a child born to Palestinian parents seeking refuge in Syria, whose life eventually leads him to Canada, a land he can finally call his own. This month, our editor Faria Ahmed sat down for a virtual chat with him and learned about his incredible journey.
The Journey To Canada
Nawar Sahli was a refugee from the moment he was born, and it took him nearly three decades to find a country to call his own. Born to Palestinian refugee parents in Syria, Sahli grew up and lived in Syria until the war broke out in 2011. To avoid the violence and bloodshed of war, Sahli began applying for a visa to leave the region and he knocked on the doors of any country that would accept him as a political refugee. Eventually, he could move to Thailand, where he found work in retail. He lived in Thailand for four and a half years, learning to survive on his own and adjusting to the lifestyle and culture of the country. Then, one day, he received a call from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) which changed his life forever.
Sahli was informed that his case had been reviewed and accepted by Canada, where he could move and become a permanent resident. In 2016, Salhi landed in Canada, with no friends or family in the country. Apart from the government support to help him settle in, he had no other support systems. He describes the first few years in Canada to be “challenging”, with regards to adjusting to a new country, the seasons and weather, the culture, all of which were drastically different from his life back in Thailand and in Syria.
The First Few Years
Sahli found it difficult to be accepted by the locally community in his first few years. He took up any jobs that came his way, including construction, landscaping, snow removal among others. He also worked for “Skip the Dishes” to deliver food door-to-door. While he continued to gain work experience, he also enrolled in a hospital clerk certificate program for a year to grow his skills.
Starting From Scratch
Even with the unsteady work hours, Sahli managed to save some money from each paycheck to start his own business. Sahli described this period of his life to be financial “very very very hard.” In 2020, he was finally able to launch his business called N80M Gallery. He sourced handcrafted Turkish and Middle Eastern style jewelry for men and women, and sold them online as well as through his small office space in Calgary. His product line contains a range of silver and gemstone jewelry items, accessories, and artwork. They all have a Middle Eastern vintage look and feel, which reminds him of his time working in Antique stores in Syria, as a young man.
Launching N80M Gallery
As a new business, Sahli’s revenue is still scarce, and he has to pay his suppliers in installments, once the products begin to sell. As a small business with little to no marketing budget, he relies on social media to promote his products. Nonetheless, he is grateful for the support he has been receiving and is optimistic about the grown of his small business.
The Ups and Downs
Regarding the biggest challenges surrounding his move to Canada and building a new life here, Sahli shares how he initially struggled to be accepted by the local community. “To build relationships and connections it took a very long time,” he said. It was harder to grow socially and professionally without a strong community or network to support him and link him to resources and opportunities.
“I Feel Like A Human Being”
I achieved the respect of being a citizen, and a human for the first time in my life. I never had a passport in my life, I never had an identity or a country to call my own. Now, I am a proud Canadian. I feel like a human being. I have rights and protections as a human and as a Canadian citizenNawar Sahli
When asked about the biggest source of joy about his move to Canada, he explained that he has finally achieved “the respect of being a citizen, and a human” for the first time in his life. He adds, “I never had a passport in my life, I never had an identity or a country to call my own. Now, I am a proud Canadian. I feel like a human being. I have rights and protections as a human and as a Canadian citizen.” Sahli described his emotions about his journey to becoming a Canadian citizen as one of gratefulness and hope.
Sahli continues his part-time work and his business named N80M Gallery. His products currently ship all across Canada and he intends to market them internationally someday. He collects online orders through his facebook page and Instagram account, and locals in Calgary can even book an appointment to visit his office space and look at the collection first-hand.
According to Statistics Canada, 25,555 Syrian Refugees migrated to Canada between 2015 and 2016, primarily through government assistance programs.