In Syria, Mohamad had swimming pools to enjoy at both his parents’ and his grandfather’s home. He remembers the joy of being a kid and sitting by the edge of the pool with his feet in the water.
MEET THE PEOPLE
Mohamad – Leamington
In 2002, Mohamad, his parents’ first child, was born in Aleppo, Syria.
In 2012, when Mohamad was 10, his family fled to Turkey because of the civil war in Syria. In Turkey, Mohamad couldn’t go to school. Instead, he started working in a big factory. At age 11, he made sofas and chairs alongside his brothers and father to pay the rent.
When Mohamad thinks back to those years in Turkey, the memories are of the hard work and never having time to play or be a child. He had to wake up at six in the morning, and he returned home from the factory at ten at night.
In 2017, when Mohamad was 15 years of age, he and his family moved to Canada. Mohamad's uncle had moved to Leamington, Ont., six months before. He encouraged Mohamad's parents to come too, telling them that the lake was beautiful, and the people were friendly. In June 2017, they found themselves in a new country, where Mohamad didn't have to work in a factory and, instead, could start attending school — something he hadn't done since he was 10.
"When I first came to Canada, I didn't speak English. It was difficult to communicate for the first five months, so I went on a lot of walks, and all I could say to people was ‘hi’.”
Lake Erie means a lot to Mohamad. It is the place where he has found peace. Mohamad especially loves going down to the marina to sit on the rocks and read a book.
Mohamad has a real passion for fitness and loves how it challenges him mentally and physically. In 2020, he completed his first half marathon. “I wasn’t even planning on it. I woke up and decided to run."
Today, Mohamad’s dad works in a factory where he packs vegetables while his mom stays home to look after her four children. When they have free time to spend together, Mohamad loves it when they all head down to Seacliff Park to look out at the water and eat watermelon or ice cream.
Mohamad, who saw his beautiful homeland destroyed, can’t believe how some people seem to take Lake Erie and its natural beauty for granted.
“Sometimes I see people throw garbage on the ground. I have tried to talk to them, but people don’t listen. I also try to go around and clean up the garbage around the lake. I try my best. It makes me happy when the beach is clean.”
At school, Mohamad’s teacher showed the class an image of a dissected fish from Lake Erie with a stomach full of plastic.
“Honestly it made me feel awful. It shows how we aren’t only ruining the water; we are ruining the animals and ourselves.”
Mohamad knows that recreational activities like fishing and swimming that people enjoy won’t be available for future generations without a healthy lake. He is sick of seeing how improving the environment is a responsibility that society keeps passing on to the next generation.
“We need to think about the future and take care of this lake. I hope that when I’m old, I can take my kids to Lake Erie, and it will be a clean nice place with fish in it.”
Lake Erie and the millions of people who rely on it for their drinking water, local jobs, and so much more need your help.
The health of Lake Erie continues to decline. Action is needed more than ever to restore its health for current and future generations.
You can make a difference. Here’s how you can help protect the lake and support the people who are closely connected to it.