File size must be less than 2Mb
You must have online publishing permission or full ownership of this image
File types (jpg, png, gif)
17 February 2021
By SARAH MATTHEWS
When asked about his first impression of his new home town, Adel Tannous replied, ‘It’s a good place for a rest’.
While many Wimmera people might at first consider ‘it’s so quiet’ and ‘there’s nothing happening here’ an insult, others understand it is a matter of perspective.
When your country has been embroiled in a civil war for almost a decade, ‘peace and quiet’ takes on an entirely different meaning.
Article continues below
Mr Tannous, 31, and his wife Sara Jabbour, 32, hail from small villages in Syria.
Six and five years ago respectively, they fled to neighbouring Lebanon in search of a better life, before it too descended into crisis.
“It was a very bad situation there. It’s a very big mess,” Mr Tannous said.
“Lebanon is actually amazing, but not now. Maybe in a couple of years.”
Hard-working by nature and willing to try his hand at anything, Mr Tannous is a qualified chef with more than 10 years’ experience.
He was working in catering and restaurant chains in Beirut when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
“It became very hard to find jobs,” Mr Tannous said.
“The Lebanese public find it hard to find jobs and we’re Syrian, so it’s very, very hard to find jobs.”
While life was difficult, there was a silver lining.
The couple was in the process of relocating to Australia thanks to a life-changing program, ‘TBB’.
Talent Beyond Boundaries matches skilled refugees with companies in need of their skills.
The foundation works with governments to open skilled-migration pathways for refugees, designed to benefit individuals, family members, communities and the economy.
“TBB are very amazing people,” Mr Tannous said.
“They help us with everything – to prepare our papers and also the money.
“When Lebanon was locked down, we stayed without work, without jobs, without money for nine months.
“TBB helped with a loan. They were very, very kind with us. I love every one of them.”
Through TBB, Mr Tannous and Ms Jabbour met Wimmera Meat Market owner Dominic van Dyk, who was looking to hire a chef.
“When Dominic talked to me on the phone, it was a very short meeting,” Mr Tannous said.
“It was just five minutes. He asked if I want to go back to Syria and I said, I cannot go back. He asked if I liked meat. I said I love meat, I love cooking meat and I love eating meat.
“He said okay, I will send you the job offer. He told me he would have a place to start my job as a chef when I arrived in Australia.
“I said that I was very excited for that.”
Mr van Dyk said he was thrilled to finally welcome the couple to Horsham last month.
“They were due in March last year, but the day they were supposed to go for their final medical, the Australian embassy shut down because of COVID,” he said.
“The next day, the airport shut down, stopping all international flights.
“They managed to get a flight to Sydney in December, did their quarantine and all their COVID testing and then came here.”
Mr van Dyk said the couple had slotted into the shop with ease, with Mr Tannous working in the kitchen and Ms Jabbour behind the counter.
“They’ve been getting on well with everyone,” he said.
“They’re enjoying what they are doing and people are warming to them – which isn’t hard, because they are always smiling.
“People understand the broken language and they have improved already just from speaking it in the shop.
“People have been welcoming – people here, as a rule, are pretty good.”
A new life
Mr Tannous said he and his wife could not speak highly enough of Mr van Dyk and his role in providing them with a new life in a safe environment.
“I’m happy, because I’m working with Dominic. He is a very lovely man and we are very lucky,” he said.
“Also, we are happy because we are here in Australia. Australia is amazing.
“We have met a lot of people here who are very kind – we are so happy.”
Mr Tannous said he was passionate about his job and was already achieving satisfaction, thanks to creative licence and positive feedback.
“We try to do something in the shop, with Dominic, like preparing more dishes – something from our country’s food and some mixed world foods, like Italian, Mexican and maybe Chinese,” he said.
“The idea is you can come to the butcher and get more than just meat. You can find many types of salads and different dishes. That’s very nice for the customer.
“Actually, I’m happy right now, because all of the customers told me my food is very amazing.”
Ms Jabbour, who was studying to become an English teacher while in Syria, said she would study the language in Horsham while working in the shop.
She said she was enjoying her new home, but missed her family.
Ms Jabbour has seen her mother once in the past five years, while Mr Tannous has not seen his family since he left Syria.
“Sara is missing her family a lot. It’s hard. But we can chat to them,” Mr Tannous said.
“I appreciate everything Dominic is doing for us. It was a hard time, but now we are thinking about good times and being successful in the future – making our dreams come true. We are very good right now.
“We were living in the dark, but we now live in the light.”
Mr van Dyk said his contact at TBB had warned him that program participants often questioned whether they had done the right thing in relocating, usually about the six-month mark.
“I spoke to Adel about it and he said, Dominic, why would we be upset? Why would we worry? We have everything here. We’re free,” he said.
“People say Horsham’s boring, but life is what you make it.
“Look at what we’ve got.”
The entire February 17, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!