This is the story of Rasheed Farah, a Syrian farmer. It will be your story during this activity.

My name is Rasheed Farah. I live here in the village of El Hanut with my parents, my grandmother, 6 brothers and 2 sisters. Our family is very close. We are Maronite Christians, not treated well by our Turkish rulers. Life is not easy for us. Our Arabic language and customs and our religion are sometimes threatened by the governors here and we have no control over these things.

Last week, we celebrated my birthday and now I am 22 years old. My uncle Assaf came to visit our home and told us about some adventures he has had. He has been living far across the ocean in a place called Canada. lie left our village when I was a young boy to earn a fortune and then return to his family here. He has done very well in Canada, and he is going to go back soon. He wants me to follow him there. I want to think about this very carefully.

Uncle Assaf told us about Canada. He lives in a city called Winnipeg and attends a Roman Catholic church in his neighbourhood. There are a few Syrians in the city, many of them working in small shops they own. Uncle Assaf is one of these shop owners. He wants me to work with him, taking some of his goods out to the people who live on the farms. He says many farm families cannot find time to shop in town, but they welcome a visit from a traveler with goods they need to buy. He says I can count on him for a job. If I decide to become a farmer myself, there are other Syrians in a city called Montreal who will lend me money and help me out. He says the land on the Prairies is free, but of course there are other expenses. It is tempting to dream of becoming a landowner.

Here in our village, the farming is poor. The land is so dry and overworked that our crops do not always flourish. There have been so many years with low rainfall, we are used to farming dry lands. I heard Uncle say that some areas of the Prairies are also very dry but the soil is unbelievably fertile. Not like here. Maybe I can learn to farm that Prairie soil, and make enough money to send back home. Then one day I will come home a rich man.

Uncle says he has been pleased with the freedom he has found in Canada: to go to church, to work as hard as he wants and earn a good living, to own his shop and be independent. These things are not so easy to do here in Syria these days. He says I should come to Winnipeg soon. Maybe the Prairies can provide the answers to my problems here at home.

I wonder?