New Build Gives Syrian Newcomers Valuable Work Experience


When Gabriele Zeh-Abramsky decided she wanted to build a new house, she knew the crew had to include newcomers from Syria.

“I’ve known Brian McNeely, the foreman on this build for more than 30 years,” says Zeh-Abramsky. A member of a volunteer support team for government-sponsored refugees from Syria, and Treasurer on the Board of Directors for the New Canadians Centre, Zeh-Abramsky knows how critical it is for newcomers to gain employment as they build a new life and integrate into the community. “If there is anyone who has worked with crews from various countries from all around the world, it’s Brian. I knew if he could make it work it was worth the effort to employ these men.”

Six men from Syria are currently working alongside Brian and his crew to build the 2100 sq ft Linwood Home. “There are language barriers,” explains McNeely. “We’ve been able to communicate with a lot of gesturing and by showing them what needs to be done. So far it’s worked really well without a lot of problems.”

Like the time a load of stone was dropped off at the site and the crew of newcomers got to work without any instruction from McNeely or the other members of the crew. “Some of the guys have
worked in construction in Syria and they have experience working with stone. They knew what had to be done and simply did it.”

Wood framing and dry walling is a different story. “Homes in North America are built differently. The en don’t have expertise in these areas. But the only way they’re going to get it, is if you show them. That’s how they’ll learn, improve their skills and secure future work. It’s important to give them that opportunity.”