Sometimes life takes you on a path you could have never predicted. For me, there have been many unexpected turns. Namely, when war broke out in Syria, I would have never imagined that I would end up leaving home and living in Canada.
In 2012, things were becoming more and more scary back home, and I made the difficult decision to get my daughter out of Syria. The only safe place I could send her was to my brother, a twelve-year resident of Canada.
Shortly after that, I was threatened by regime thugs. I feared for my life and needed sanctuary until things were resolved. With only a backpack filled with a few treasured belongings, I fled to Lebanon and then journeyed to my daughter in Saint John, NB.
As the situation in Syria intensified, I was stranded - stuck in an unfamiliar place, stuck with just memories of my career and community, stuck with just a few travel clothes and very little money.
Without even saying goodbye I left my entire life behind - my house, my work, my friends, everything I owned, and everything I worked for. Suddenly, I found myself in a place I never expected: homeless!
My world was taken in a heartbeat. Being a stranger in a foreign place, my world seemed bleak and dark. The one bright light remaining was that I was safe with my daughter. I was stuck, yes! In despair and it felt like the end. Though, the truth is that life continues, just maybe not the way we want it to be. I had to accept it, take charge and turn it into an opportunity. So, here in New Brunswick, a new journey began.
Where to start? Employment. The executive life I built was gone. Here, in Canada, I would need credentials. I was once a pharmacist in Syria, but my daughter was young and money was tight, so going back to school was not an option. I worked many jobs to make ends meet and continued to do so the only way I knew how - by putting my signature on everything I do; create, find and maximize opportunities; and encourage, help and communicate with others.
I didn’t plan on being a refugee - no one ever does. Looking back, I realize I may not be lucky but I’m definitely fortunate. I can succeed through adversity! I’ve previously survived cancer and now I have survived war. It has made me more passionate in helping others succeed.
This is the reason I co-founded and launched the NB Business Immigrant Association. An association that will serve the immigrant investors in New Brunswick throughout their journey to establish their businesses.
I also co-founded the New Brunswick Immigrant Women’s Association – a team of immigrant women fully dedicated to help empower other immigrant women across this province. Which, then, also lead me to join efforts with a group of students of the leadership program at the UNB Renaissance College where we work on a project tackling all sorts of struggles that immigrant women face - from domestic violence to accessibility to local services.
I am excited about my new business that puts all my creative ability, life experience and acquired skills towards helping people present themselves to the world in terms of style and image. I help them realize how they envision themselves as individuals and as professionals; help them style their environment, their living spaces, and their businesses; and I help them brand their reality. Through my new business “Layla image consulting”– www.alyal.ca, I do believe I have settled into my new home and expect a happy ending to my story.
“Sometimes in Tragedy we find our life’s Purpose”
– Robert Brult