Newcomers World Market #5 was held June 9th, in the basement of Westminster United Church
Newcomers market a chance to express culture and pursue dreams
Abdulnaser Alkhalaf and his wife Hened sell traditional Syrian food to market-goer Connie Barrett at the Newcomers World Market hosted by the Westminster United Church. Jennifer Ackerman / Regina Leader-Post
Jennifer Ackerman, Regina Leader-Post
Imagine a house with no doors or windows, no running water, no bathroom — nothing except a landlord who made you work long hours for little pay. That was the reality for Abdulnasar Alkhalaf and his family after they fled war-torn Syria for Lebanon four years ago.
“He was not a good person,” Alkhalaf said of their landlord in Lebanon. “We brought the water from a long way because we didn’t have water.”
That all changed when the family came to Canada almost two and a half years ago and started building a new life.
“My life in Canada is a wonderful life because it is safe and my children are at school,” said Alkhalaf from the Newcomers World Market on Saturday.
He and his wife Hened were selling traditional Syrian food at the market, which was held in the basement of the Westminster United Church in Regina’s Cathedral neighbourhood.
Saturday marked the fifth time the church’s outreach task group has hosted the market.
“We just thought that this would be a very good idea for the city to see how many newcomers we have, experience their cultures, their food,” said Barbara Wickstrom, an outreach group committee member. “It’s very nice for everyone to see what the diversity is here.”
For Alkhalaf and his family, the market is an opportunity to get on their feet while still embracing their own culture and traditions.
“People here are very nice and the church gives us a very good chance to prove our business here,” said Hened.
Currently running Orange Blossom Syrian Sweets out of their home, the family says the market is a place for them to showcase the authentic, homemade Syrian pastries and other baked goods all made from recipes passed down from Hened’s grandmother. The couple sells some savoury foods as well.
Susan Alvarez, originally from the Philippines, smiles and laughs with market-goers as she sells handmade jewelry and purses at the Newcomers World Market hosted by the Westminster United Church. Jennifer Ackerman / Regina Leader-Post
They’ve been selling at the newcomers market since its inception. Once they have saved enough money, they hope to open their own restaurant. Until then, Alkhalaf said it’s important to have a venue like the world market, to establish themselves. It’s also a way to get to know their community.
“We see the different culture, different people, we meet many people and we make friends,” he said.
An array of countries was represented by the approximately 30 tables that filled the church’s basement with traditional food, crafts and clothes.
Newcomers from places such as China, Ethiopia and the Philippines filled the room with the tantalizing smells of freshly made spring rolls, butter chicken, samosas and more.
“It is very important that they would have a venue like this and for them to show what they have, bring a little bit of their culture with them and keep it,” said Wickstrom, who was taking donations for admission at the door.
All donations go towards the church’s refugee fund, but all the money made by the sellers goes home with the sellers and the tables and spots to sell their wares are provided to them for free.
“We hope that it grows,” she Wickstrom. “We’ve got room for more tables if others want to participate.”
She said there are no restrictions placed on those who wish to participate. Anyone who considers themselves a newcomer is welcomed.
Alkhalaf said he appreciates the opportunity the market has given his family of seven.
“I think we are going to have a wonderful life with a wonderful community,” he said.
To keep an eye out for future market events, visit the church’s Facebook page or contact the Westminster United Church at 306-757-6444.
SAVE THE DATE - The next Newcomer's World Market - Sept 22!