The act of walking with a boy to the beach to make out with him holds great significance for Ahmed Danny Ramadan. It’s what he did to celebrate the second anniversary of receiving his Canadian visa in 2014, after being a Syrian refugee in Lebanon for two years.
His life here is a world away from the chronic fear and anxiety of being persecuted in his homeland, where he ran an underground LGBT centre.
He’s now helping others in similar situations to come to Canada.
The journalist and writer (who has a regular column in Daily Xtra and is working on a novel) is a volunteer coordinator at Qmunity, and a volunteer for Rainbow Refugee, which assists LGBT and HIV–positive refugees. He was also a grand marshal in the 2016 Vancouver Pride parade and is a speaker at numerous events (including the TEDxSFU event in November).
He also helped raise $80,000 to assist several Syrian refugees to come to Canada, and he hopes to make his Evening in Damascus fundraiser an annual event.
But what he’s most proud of is that he finally feels at home in Vancouver.
“The idea of coming here and facing the fact that nobody knows me here and nobody had an idea how to deal with me, and that I was a Syrian refugee, and I went through culture shock and posttraumatic stress disorder, and I came [out] on the other side…winning, so this is the thing I’m most proud about, that I managed to turn this place into home,” he explains. “If I don’t feel that I have a good base for myself, I wouldn’t be able to do the things that I do.”
In fact, he says he has been “Vancouverized”, as he goes to the gym and he’s even dreaming of one day running to become an MLA or MP.
In the meantime, he encourages everyone to think about how they can help new Canadians.
“I think that there’s an active role that every single Canadian…has to play in supporting refugees and newcomers…in supporting them and making them feel equally Canadian to you,” he says.
His advice is simple: “Open doors, open hearts.”