Refugee family deeply grateful to Kensington, was ready to knock on every door to say thank you

Story and photos by Jim Brown

Maldaa and Mohammed faced a long line up of wellwishers at a special dinner on May 12 to show their deep appreciation to the community for all the help they received settling in Kensington.

It was their chance for a Syrian refugee family to say a heartfelt ‘Thank You’ to an entire community for accepting them into their homes and into their hearts.

Mohammed Albrzawi and his wife Maldaa Al Nahas Alhomsi flashed beaming smiles as they greeted dozens of people at the Kensington United Church Saturday, May 12. The couple special guests at a potluck meal sponsored by KARSI – The Kensington and Area Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (KARSI). They were joined by their two children, Hala and Kenan, nine and six years respectively.

The family had arrived on April 19, just in time to experience their first snow.

More than $38,000 was raised by KARSI to sponsor the family in Kensington, $8,000 more than the recommended amount, said Patricia Bennett, co-chair of KARSI with Carolyn Francis.

“They have a place to live and Mohammed has a part-time job in Summerside, working in a florist shop,” said Patricia.

“They are very anxious to thank the community. Because they realize it wasn’t just the community of Kensington, but the whole area who bought raffle tickets, who donated furniture and (prepared the) house.”

Mohammed owned a flower shop in Syria before the horror and devastation of war turned them into refugees. His wife was an accountant. They had lived in Damascus before the war and then found themselves in Istanbul Turkey with other refugees.

The transition to life in Kensington has been seamless.

“It was more than we expected,” said Mohammed, who had begun his second day of work at the flower shop.

“Everyone is so kind to us,” said Maldaa.

“The children are in school. They love the school and they love their teachers. The principal, the staff and the school are all very helpful. Everyone has been working hard to make the kids love the school. They’ve done a great job. They made it seem as if they are in that school for a long time,” said Mohammed.

The couple said they were amazed at how easily they able to find a rented house and move in, thanks to the community and KARSI.

“When we arrived on our first week it snowed, and it was our kids wish. The kids were playing in the snow,” said Mohammed.

“Our sponsors arranged this dinner to help us say thank you to the residents of Kensington and the surrounding area,” said Mohammed.

“We told our sponsors if we don’t meet everyone and say thank you we’re going to knock on every house door just to say thank you,” he said.

“Everybody here is so friendly and so helpful, they make us feel like we are home,” said Maldaa.

“We were worried once we arrived in Kensington we would have to worry about the house and the furniture, but when we arrived everything was set up for us. That was one of the main reasons that I was able to find a job that quick,” said her husband.

“When we moved from Syria to Istanbul it took us about four to five months to find the right house and furniture. All of this time was saved by our sponsors. We are so grateful to our sponsors, they did a great job.”

Maldaa and Mohammed greet Malpeque Liberal MP Wayne Easter.

Maldaa and Mohammed greet Carol Evans. Carol donated a handmade quilt to KARSI, which was sold in a raffle that raised $400 towards the family’s sponsorship.


Newly reopened Margate motel fully booked with local tenants, foreign workers

Story and photos by Jim Brown

The newly renovated Margate Apartments building

Austin Roberts is the owner of a newly renovated motel in Margate along Highway 6. He says it didn’t take him long to fill every one of its seven units with long term tenants.

“We’re actually quite excited about that property. It was a bit of an eyesore (before),” he acknowledged.

Not any more.

The Margate Apartments building had been sitting idle for quite some time, before he bought it in the fall and shortly afterwards began its remarkable transformation.

“We had a need for accommodations – we had some foreign workers working with us,” said Roberts.

So he bought a strip motel that was slowly deteriorating, and began working on it from top to bottom for several months through the fall and winter, using a local contractor.

The motel consists of six two bedroom units and one one-bedroom unit.

“Kensington is such a great area for business (and) we knew we would have no problem renting it,” said Roberts, adding there’s a waiting list.

“We took three units for foreign workers and four units were left over” for other renters.

“We probably could have rented them at least three times over,” he said.

Roberts had no problem finding tenants. In fact, he didn’t even have to advertise.

“People would search us out, they’d see the work was getting done and they would find out who we were and come up to the office. They’d get hold of us through neighbors and friends.”

Roberts estimates the renos have cost in the range of $350,000 to $370,000 and though the gleaming building looks done, he says there is still some work to finish.

“We’ve got painting to do on the doors, and we’ve got some design work going between doors to give each (room) privacy,” he said.

There’s also landscaping that needs to be done behind the apartments to draw water away from the building.

His foreign worker complement includes young employees from India.

All told, 10 foreign workers are employed in Roberts’ businesses in New Annan and Kensington.

The units were available for renters on April 15.


Seventy-third anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic marked in Kensington

Story and photos by Jim Brown

The Battle of the Atlantic ran World War Two’s entire six year duration, and it claimed more than 3,000 Allied ships and 40,000 seamen by the time the war ended.

The Battle of the Atlantic was fought under some of harshest and cruelest conditions of the war. It was a life and death struggle to keep essential supply lines to Great Britain open during the war’s darkest days when an Axis victory in Europe seemed inevitable.

Thirty-three Canadian ships, including merchant ships, were lost and so were thousands of Canadians.

At 11 am, Sunday, May 6, members of HMCS Queen Charlotte, the Prince Edward Island Regiment Band, the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps and the Royal Canadian Legion Party assembled at Kensington’s Veterans Memorial Gardens for a parade to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the campaign, which is remembered every year on the first Sunday in May. Shortly afterwards a bash was held at the Kensington Legion for parade participants and members of the public.

PEI Senator Mike Duffy, centre, was one of several dignitaries attending the Battle of the Atlantic ceremonies in Kensington May 6,

Cornwall resident Nick MacBane brought his dog Darby with him to the Battle of the Atlantic ceremonies.


Job seekers head to North Rustico job fair

Story and photos by Jim Brown
Jim Brown can be reached at

Islanders looking for jobs had pretty good odds of landing one on April 21 at the North Shore Job Fair, held at the North Rustico Lions Club. Dozens of businesses from throughout the province had booths at the fair, with several having more than 20 positions to fill.

That could mean only one thing – summer is on the way.

The job fair participants were: Barachois Inn, Blue Mussel Cafe, Boomburger, Brackley Beach Northwinds Inns and Suites, Carr’s Oyster Bar, Cavendish Pizza Delight, Chez Yvonne’s Restaurant, D.P. Murphy Group of Companies, Emerald Isle Property Management, Employment Standards Branch, Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers, Fun Food PEI, Grandpa’s Antique Photo Studio, Inn at the Pier, Kindred Spirits Inn & Cottages, Lakeview Lodge and Cottages, Maritime Fun Group, New Glasgow Lobster Suppers, New Glasgow Highlands Campground, New Glasgow Lobster Suppers, PEI Preserve Company, Piatto Pizzeria & Enoteca, Razzy’s, Resort at Cavendish Corner, Richard’s Fresh Seafood, Sandpiper Cottages and Suites, Stanley Bridge Country Resort, Stanley Bridge Studios, Subway Cavendish, Sundance Cottages, Sunset Campground, The Ship’s Company Pub and Galley, Tourism Cavendish Beach/City Beach Express, Twin Shores Camping Area and Wind & Sea Restaurant.


Hundreds of friends, family members and supporters turn out to Joan Harding’s benefit

Story and photos by Jim Brown

You are truly blessed in life if you have many friends. And that’s certainly the case in spades for Joan Harding.

It was turn away crowd at the New London Community Complex on April 6 for a benefit thrown by an army of volunteers, many of whom were friends and family of Joan, to help cover her health care related expenses. Cars jammed the parking lot and were parked on the road on both sides of the complex.

So many people attended several had to be turned away, including parents who brought their young children with them, since children under 19 were not allowed inside. It was difficult finding a chair to sit on to enjoy an impressive lineup of musical entertainers or to take a break from looking at long tables filled with scores of donated auction items.

Joan was unable to attend, since she was in Charlottetown receiving treatment for cancer.

Audrey Paynter and Dick MacDonald donated more than $500 in winnings from the evening’s 50/50 draw to their dear friend, Joan Harding.

Among the 300 or so people who attended was a couple soon to be married, who travelled all the way from Cornwall. Dick MacDonald and Audrey Paynter donated 50/50 winnings of $520 from the evening’s draw to their dear friend. The two are longtime friends with Joan, who helped Audrey through her own battle with cancer.
“She came to see me when I was fighting cancer, so we have to come and do these things for her now when it’s her turn,” said Audrey, who sang at the benefit.

“We donated it to a great friend. Joan’s been a buddy of mine and Dick’s for many, many years,” she said.

“She is a good friend of many, many people, that’s why this place is overfilled tonight,” said Audrey.

Joan Harding is employed at the New London recycling facility and is the treasurer of the Stanley Memorial Society, which has operated a farmer’s market at the Stanley Bridge Centre for the past several summers, as well as hosting history circles, musical shows and other events.


Danger continues to lurk underfoot

Story and photos by Jim Brown

In mid-April of last year I wrote a column warning about the serious threat to youngsters and others posed by jagged, broken slabs of concrete along the banks of a stream in North Granville, at Taylor Road and the Rattenbury.

A few days ago I went down to the same location I had warned about last spring, to see if smelt might be schooling early, since there was a warm break in the weather.

Both banks were covered by snow almost as high as my knees, but it wasn’t the snow I was worried about. I knew there was something treacherous hidden underneath and I watched every step I took to the streambed.

I thought I had taken every precaution.

And yet as I crept closer to the stream, I felt my foot slip.

My heart stopped as I tried to regain my footing. Fortunately, I escaped injury, although my dip net fell into the snow and slithered to the water’s edge.

That close, I thought. What if it were a child standing there, or a senior citizen in frail health?

I’m actually quite surprised there hasn’t been a serious accident yet.

Last year I wrote:

“For years now I’ve headed down there, carefully watching my feet so they wouldn’t slip on bare, often jagged cement blocks lining the bank…Less than a week ago I had a scary misstep within five minutes, my feet sliding off a slick, rain-soaked block of cement. I banged my knee in the process but suffered no lasting injuries. Over the years I’ve been very fortunate, despite many slips, to suffer nothing more serious than cuts and bruises.”

Things obviously haven’t changed in the year. The broken, jagged slabs are still there, they are still a threat to anyone who casts a line or pokes a net into the water.

Not even a sign has been erected to warn anglers of the peril underfoot.

There are big liability issues at stake and I wouldn’t be surprised if there had been several injuries since the slabs were laid, hopefully nothing worse than bruises, scrapes and cuts.

We simply don’t how often this happened, because it’s likely the injuries happened to people visiting from other parts of the Island or perhaps from away.

I also wrote: “What happens when an excited youngster rushes to the water’s edge to dip their net into a school of smelt or land the first trout of the season when the banks are still covered in snow? Will they conk their head and see stars? Will they get taken to the hospital with broken bones or worse? What if they slip and end up in the fast rushing early spring water?”

I believe the residents of this area have been very lucky over the years that nobody has been seriously injured, or worse. How much longer is it realistic to expect that run of good fortune to continue?

It’s up to our provincial government to do something now, before tragedy strikes. And take my word for it, it will.

If anyone thinks it’s costly to remove the slabs now, likely using a winch and a crane, wait until someone gets hurt and lawyers start circling like sharks.