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Tareq Hadhad and his family lost everything when their business and home were destroyed in the Syrian Civil War. After three years of living as refugees, they came to Canada to rebuild their lives and their business.

“I do not just make chocolate, I make happiness.”

This is the mission that drove Tareq Hadhad’s father when he started his chocolate business in Damascus, Syria in 1986. Resisting the expectation to follow a prescribed path in life, he pursued his passion to become a chocolatier instead. 20 years later, the family was the second-largest chocolate producer and exporter in the Middle East.

In 2011, Tareq was a fourth-year medical student, pursuing his dream of becoming a doctor. Their whole family lived in an apartment building and 25+ people would gather for Saturday night dinners around his grandmother’s giant table. The Hadhad family was prosperous and happy, but all that changed in 2012 when their hometown of Damascus was bombed in the Syrian Civil War and their focus became survival.

In this moving episode of Chatter That Matters, host Tony Chapman chats with Tareq about his life in Syria before the war. Listeners hear him describe his city and his family with wonder and fondness as he recalls life before the war. He describes his father’s unlikely pursuit of chocolate making and how he wooed his future wife — Tareq’s mother — with his chocolate and the power of creating happiness in others.

When they fled the country in the war, Tareq and his family survived in a Lebanese refugee camp for three years. One day, his mother revealed she was simply counting down to her death — that’s when Tareq knew they had to switch gears from surviving to rebuilding. After a cab driver told him about opportunities in Canada, Tareq applied to immigrate. He and his family were invited to settle here.

What happened next is a remarkable testament to the humanity of the Canadian people and the resilience of the Hadhad family. Tareq describes how within months they had started a new chocolate business, which they called Peace By Chocolate. With support from their Antigonish, Nova Scotia community, Peace By Chocolate thrived, even gaining national and international attention when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gifted boxes of Peace By Chocolate to Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and mentioned Tareq’s family in a speech to the UN.

Today, Tareq Hadhad couldn’t be more grateful to be a Canadian citizen. He is the recipient of RBC’s Top 25 Immigrant Award and Entrepreneur of the Year award and was selected by Google as the National Hero Case in 2018. Later in 2022, a film based on the Hadhad family: Peace By Chocolate — The Film will be released.

Tareq is a sought-after speaker, sharing his family’s story as well as insights about entrepreneurship, and spreading his message of gratitude, inclusion and the power of goodness and positivity. “We are all newcomers at some point in our life,” he tells listeners.

Tony Chapman created the Chatter That Matters podcast to counter the storm of negativity and impossibility with true stories of ordinary people who do extraordinary things. He chats with Olympians, Advocates, Celebrities, Leaders, and people who battled what seemed like insurmountable odds.

In doing, listeners hear life lessons that inspire all of us to do more and to be more, to help us get to where we need, want and deserve to go. RBC is the presenting sponsor.

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