Saturday, December 31, 2016

From one sister to another

Room for More is grateful to all donors who have come forward in the last month to help bring our extended Syrian family to Toronto.  Special thanks to Maxine, who works part-time at Fresh Collective on Roncesvalles, in a job training program for adults with special needs.
Maxine (left), with Fresh Collective Founder/CEO Laura-Jean
The story behind the photo: "Maxine decided to celebrate her 30th birthday by sharing her good fortunes with a Syrian refugee family trying to join their relatives here in Toronto. Maxine loves her two brothers so much and would be devastated were they to be forced to live elsewhere. At Maxine's workplace, the Fresh Collective on Roncesvalles, she heard of the Room for More organization looking for financial help. Maxine donated all of her birthday present money and asked for donations in her name be made to Room for More. Maxine hopes that her gift will make a move to Toronto that much more real for these families. Maxine continues to contribute to her community here in High Park / Roncesvalles in ways that help celebrate people of all backgrounds and abilities." 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Syrian-Canadian party time

It's getting dark and cold in Canada, but Room for More warmed things up at the start of December with a party to celebrate Syrian food and music, and to raise funds for our new families, arriving soon. Dozens of friends, friends-of-friends, and total strangers crowded the house where Room for More began.

Our party featured crazy amounts of Syrian food prepared by our sponsored family, with help from sponsor group members.  Cooking together, we learned new recipes and discovered new spices and presentation ideas (nuts on everything! an army of romaine spears guarding the tabbouleh!).

Newcomer musicians Esmeel Aboufakher and Rahaf Alakbani (profiled here) gave us traditional Syrian music. Their first song told the story of a man far from home who has a conversation with a priest from the Old Country about missing that place.  It was beautiful, and heartbreaking, and I recorded the whole thing on my phone, but something's wrong with my phone (I discovered) and so we just have this 30-second clip:
Our musicians already knew our sponsored family because the youngest child in the family is a member of the children's choir they have organized, a choir which went up to Ottawa just after our party to sing at the House of Commons and meet Justin Trudeau.  These kids are going places.

From a fundraising perspective, the event did well, getting us most of the way towards being able to support the two new families coming in (soon, we hope).  We also have a few new group members who can share the tasks of helping out the new families.

From a cultural perspective, it was great to hear and taste what Syrian newcomers are bringing to the country.  We learned new things this year.  For the party, I made baklava for the first time, following Maureen Abood's radical path of not putting butter between every single layer of phyllo dough (that's 4 hours saved, right there).  Came out looking good, if I do say so myself.
The Syrian pronounciation is "baklawa"

The Syrian food thing has been a positive development in my house, where I had fallen into a rut involving a very limited run of pasta and taco meals. I bought this cookbook, written by a Canadian woman and her son, originally from Aleppo but now living in Montreal.  Some amazing flavour combinations there, unlike any other Middle Eastern cuisine I have tasted.

We hope to have another party a year from now, to celebrate with the new families coming in, and our first sponsored family, well-established in Canada.  Until then, stay warm!