Rashad Kadah has been cutting men’s hair for as long as he can remember.
“I remember when I was young I shaved a man’s beard and my brother put a stool under me because I was so small,” Kadah said.
He grew up cutting hair alongside his brothers in Syria, eventually running his own barbershop for more than a decade.
Today, Kadah works part-time at Sports Barbers in the city’s north end. He’s just one of a handful of Syrian refugees who have managed to find employment in Nanaimo.
“Rashad is meticulous about the details, particularly on facial hair, back of the neck and cheek lines,” said Melissa Hoffort, owner and operator of Sports Barbers.
Hoffort connected with Kadah through the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society and its newcomers job ready program, which provides Canadian work culture training to refugees and new immigrants.
Since being hired, Kadah already has customers inquiring about his services.
“Clients are calling and asking to have their hair cut by Rashad. These are clients that we haven’t had in our barbershop before, so they’re seeking him out,” Hoffort said.
Kadah arrived in Nanaimo with his family in March as part of a wave of government-assisted refugees. He said generally the hair styles for men in Syria are similar to Canada. The biggest difference, however, lies with the facial hair.
Kadah said men in Syria also have light, but noticeable, facial hair above the cheek line and above the eyebrows. He said men will oftenhave those areas waxed and their eyebrows threaded.
“In Syria they want to clean that area,” he said.
Being a barber in Syria can sometimes mean having to work long hours.
When Ramadan is finished, lots of people like to celebrate by purchasing new clothes and getting haircuts according to Kadah, who said in the days after Ramadan, barbershops are packed.
“Everybody comes to get their hair cut. I would start working in the morning and until 7 at night,” he said. “I’ll go to my home and take a break and come back at 8 p.m. and then I will work until 2 a.m.”
Kadah is just one of a handful of recent Syrian refugees who have been matched with a local employer through the multicultural society’s newcomers job readiness program.
“It’s really to help them understand what the expectations are of Canadian employers,” said Angelika Valchar, employment manager with the society.
Valchar said four other Syrians have been placed with employers through the program. She said there has also been plenty interest and positive responses from Nanaimo-based employers about the program.
Hoffort said Kadah has been a tremendous asset, citing his wealth of experience, attention to detail and high level of customer service.She said staff are learning from him and he is learning from them. It’s been positive for everyone.
“Our team definitely enjoy him as well,” she said.
Kadah said he enjoys meeting new people and is happy to be cutting hair once again.