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Zakaria Al Mokdad

January 5, 2023

From A Destroyed Home to A Successful Restaurant Owner: My Journey from Syria to Canada

Interviewed by Abirah Chandraraj, Social Media Intern.

Hi, my name is Zakaria Al Mokdad! I am a business owner of a successful restaurant called Aleppo Kebab located at 1960 Lawrence Avenue East (Warden and Lawrence). Before you begin to wonder how I got here, let me go back ten years and share my story with you.

I grew up in Syria where I had my own restaurant. It was a tourist restaurant and attracted people from all over the world. It was very successful and fit over 300 customers. Unfortunately, in 2011, the war in Syria had begun and destroyed not only my restaurant but my home as well. I was forced to leave Syria in 2013 and moved to a nearby country, Jordan, for almost 4 years.

In 2016, my life began to turn around. I got a private sponsor who sponsored my family and me to Canada and provided us with great support. They paid for rent, house, food, and everything for one year. In the meantime, I had the opportunity to go to school and improve my English. After one year of studying, I found myself ready to start work. Finding a job was a lot different compared to Syria. It was quite challenging to find a job without sufficient Canadian work experience. After talking to some of my friends and my sponsor, I was offered a job at a restaurant. I started as a dishwasher for almost 3 months and as my coworkers saw improvement, I began helping out more around the restaurant. Starting as a dishwasher, I later began cooking, serving, and eventually hosting people.

In 2019, I gained enough experience to open my own restaurant, Aleppo Kebab. Today, this restaurant is known to be a well-known restaurant with a 4.8 rating on Google Reviews. The restaurant is known for its welcoming environment with great servers, hospitality, and food. The restaurant gained a lot of support even throughout the COVID pandemic. We had great support from the community and hence, we tried to give back by having big promotions. It makes me happy to see all the love and support from the community and we’re happy to share that we are looking into opening a new second location in Mississauga.

As newcomers, we did not know anything about Canada and our sponsor also supported us by giving us various resources for all our needs. When we were looking into healthcare and the best place that had family doctors and nurses, SCHC’s Community Health Centre (CHC) was recommended.

It is interesting to compare the Canadian lifestyle with the Syrian lifestyle. In Syria, we naturally thought that everyone in our family was healthy. That is why I did not know much about the healthcare system. However, when we came to Canada, the doctors here were very helpful. We talked about all aspects of our health in detail and about the history of our family back home. Through questions like “Did anyone in your family have diabetes or blood pressure?”, we were able to understand our current health situation.

Now it’s been 6 years with the CHC with Dr. Ahmed, Dr. Jayakar, and Leena, NP. I am extremely happy to have met these amazing doctors. Some of the doctors were very helpful to my mother as she had many medical and health-related concerns and I am glad to be a lot more educated about health issues such as diabetes and heart failure. I am so happy with our family doctor and nurses that it worries me that they will change and I will miss them. They take very good care of my family and I. One day, when my son had pain in his back, Dr. Ahmed was willing to do physiotherapy for him. It’s moments like these that make me realize that they really do care and take their time. We began to treat each other as a family over the years.

I had a newborn baby recently and my first thought was to go to the CHC and share the news with the family doctor and nurses. Leena, NP showed up during her lunch break despite being fully booked to see the baby. Every time I visit the CHC, it feels like I am coming to my house. Everyone is excited to see you and everyone says “Hi Zak” and “Hi Zakaria”! I gave out sweets and drinks to everyone for the newborn baby. I treat them like family and want to share the love.

In October 2021, we moved to a new house in Pickering but even then, we did not change our family doctor. I did not mind giving myself a hard time driving far because I know that I am in safe hands with SCHC’s family doctors and nurses.

You know what they say, what goes around comes around. Now, they come to my restaurant and eat food and we spread the love. We are like a family now. I say this from the bottom of my heart. All the other clinics should treat their clients like your CHC. Canada will be safer and happier, and most importantly, healthier.