Coming from darkness and into light is how Anas Schichmouse describes his life after fleeing Syria and being welcomed to Canada though ISSofBC’s Refugee Sponsorship Program and the generous donation of an American benefactor.
Anas, who was a university law student in his home country, twice had his world torn apart: first by a genetic eye condition which robbed him of his sight, then by the violent civil war.
However, through the kindness of Florida donor Tom Smith, the support of ISSofBC and a series of life-changing eye operations, Anas can now see a bright future in his new home in Vancouver.
“I feel like my life just started when I arrived to Canada. It’s a great feeling with these great people. It makes me feel optimistic like I got my sight once I arrived in Canada,” Anas said through his sister Camile’s translation via Zoom.
His sisters, Hayfa, Serin and Camile, arrived in Canada in 2016 during the country’s emergency Syrian resettlement response. Originally from the town of Al-Hasakah, they had been trying to bring Anas over for two years.
After fleeing Syria to Northern Iraq with limited sight and losing hope, Anas was finally sponsored through ISSofBC in May 2018.
Though Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program, ISSofBC– with funding help from donors – welcomes refugees from abroad to come to Canada for family reunification, providing financial and emotional support, including help with housing, clothing and food, when they get here.
Anas describes finally being reunited with his family and meeting Tom as a positive turning point in his life and something he will never forget. “I couldn’t see well at that time but I could hear their voices when we first met. It was a wonderful feeling,” he said.
At risk of permanently losing his sight, Anas received a corneal transplant shortly after he arrived at Vancouver’s Mount Saint Joseph Hospital. The surgical team successfully restored his vision partially with the first procedure.
After a series of operations over two years, Anas has regained full sight and wears prescription glasses. Now Anas has his eyes on the future and isn’t afraid to dream big. Currently studying ESL at Vancouver Community College before tackling his law degree, he hopes someday soon to bring his girlfriend to Vancouver who also fled Syria and is currently living in Lebanon.
Anas says he’s very thankful to everyone who helped him in his journey to a bright, new life. He hopes one day to pay this act of kindness forward and help sponsor other refugees in need.
Since the ISSofBC Refugee Sponsorship Program started in 2016, 30 refugees including Anas have been welcomed to Canada. Over 20 more are scheduled to arrive in 2021 and beyond.