Like so many others, Hussein Maem fled to Canada from Syria in search of a better life. He left everything behind including his plot of land upon which he endeavored to grow the most beautiful crops. Due to the worsening situation, Maem was forced to flee with his young family.
The road to North Bay wasn’t an easy one for the Maem family. Before settling in North Bay they spent almost 2 years in a Refugee camp in rather difficult conditions. Maem dreamed of his old home, and the ground that he used to plant upon. When he got to North Bay Maem was bound and determined to make a difference and begin gardening again. Despite a lot of hardships when moving to Canada and becoming accustomed to our Canadian ways, Maem was able to realize his garden dream last Spring when the gardening bug found its way back to him.
In a newly announced partnership Maem’s dreams were about to begin to come true. The Gathering Place garden and the North Bay and District Multicultural Centre came together with a plan to help Maem and his family out. They decided to give him a plot of land.
Like many Syrian refugees, finding a job that doesn’t require speaking English is difficult. With no money to start a business and as a new citizen of Canada, Maem struggled to make ends meet. His family of six depended upon him, yet he was having difficulties providing for them in his new Canadian world. Maem received word of his plot of land last Spring and immediately went to work. Though his land in North Bay might not be as large as his fields back home, his gratitude was overwhelming. Despite the language barrier, as Maem speaks little English, he managed to profess his love for Canada and North Bay.
While he is beginning to learn English, the skills he has brought with him from his homeland require no language. They require tools, ground and a bit of seed. Eager to embark on his new journey, Maem took to the garden to learn its soil and find adequate crops to grow.
To demonstrate his gratitude Maem began becoming more and more involved in the Gathering Place. He now weeds, volunteers and does routine maintenance around the patch. Not only is he helping expand the Gathering Place garden but he is also teaching others his growing secrets.
For Maem, the plot of land isn’t just a hobby for him, it’s a connection to his home and a way to feed his family. Faced with financial needs, the ability to grow his own food has removed some of the financial burden from his family’s expenses.
So far Maem has taken to growing traditional Canadian vegetables with his plot, featuring eggplant, cucumber and even radishes to name a few. The sky’s the limit for Maem and his garden, and it will be exciting to see what he grows in his second year.