“Community Champions” is a media campaign led by the South Okanagan-Similkameen Local Immigration Partnership and supported by Castanet. We share stories that raise awareness about the contribution immigrants make to the community while introducing the small businesses of new Canadians.
If you’ve been following the Community Champions stories, you may recall a story about the Alzoubi family in Summerland. Their journey led them to starting their own business in Kelowna.
Eklas, her husband Mohammad and their children are originally from Syria. They arrived to South Okanagan in 2016 thanks to the sponsorship of the local group of residents – Summerland Refugee Sponsorship Group. They started their settlement journey in Summerland.
Mohammad, who used to be a chef in Syria, worked at the Lakeside Resort. Eklas has been studying English at the South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services (SOICS), taking care of the children, and running a small home-based catering business.
“I love cooking, especially when I see how much people enjoy the food I make," said Eklas proudly. She used to sell her food at the local community markets and at the OneWorld multicultural festival held annually by SOICS in February.
A few months ago Eklas shared: “My dream is to open a restaurant and run it together with my husband and children. Right now we can’t afford the loans but someday, I hope, our dream will come true.”
Recently, the Alzoubi family opened their own business in Kelowna (104-330 Hwy 33 W) – “Farah Middle Eastern Food”, named after their baby daughter. “Farah” means happiness.
Although, it is not their dream restaurant, it is very close to their goal. It is a store full of halal groceries from the Middle East. The business is family run, however, they were able to also create a job opportunity for Mahmoud who immigrated to Okanagan from Egypt.
Mahmoud shares some insights while giving me a tour of the store: “The Middle Eastern and Arabic communities are growing in the region and we want to satisfy the demand for traditional food. Now they don’t need to drive all the way to Vancouver to get the things they love. Also, many of our customers are Canadian-born. They love the spices, coffee, tea, and some unique products, such as fig jam and sweets that you can’t find in regular grocery stores.”
“We are business owners now,” says Eklas with a big smile on her face.
“We contribute to the community. We are very happy here.”