He Lost Almost Everything in Syria. In Canada, His New Neighbors Are Helping Him Start Over.

Thanks to his new friends, Issam Hadhad has rebuilt his chocolate-making business.

Isaam Hadhad with Frank Gallant in the chocolate factory. Jonathan Keijser/Courtesy of the Atlantic

In Syria, Issam Hadhad ran one of the largest chocolate factories in the Middle East. But after a bombing destroyed his factory, Hadhad and his family fled to a refugee camp in Lebanon, eventually gaining asylum in Nova Scotia, Canada, in 2016. Without money or English-language skills, rebuilding his business was difficult, but he started small, baking sweets and selling them at the farmers market.

Locals noticed and soon came to Hadhad’s support. His new neighbors—including carpenters, plumbers, and electricians—helped him build Peace by Chocolate, Hadhad’s Canadian chocolate factory.

One of Hadhad’s new friends is Frank Gallant, who often works beside him in the factory. Their unlikely friendship is the subject of a new 12-minute film, Brothers, recently published in The Atlantic. “It’s harder for us to have a deeper conversation about life…versus just doing an activity,” says Gallant, but they’re learning to communicate.

“Frank and I, how we interact…it’s like two brothers. He encouraged me to live,” says Hadhad. “If all people walked together as if they had one heart, there’s hope for the future.”

Recharge is a weekly newsletter full of stories that will energize your inner hellraiser. Sign up at the bottom of the story.

  • An innocent man. Alfred Dewayne Brown spent nearly a decade on death row for murder. But in 2015, a judge tossed out his conviction after discovering that an assistant district attorney hid evidence supporting Brown’s claims. Though he was released, Brown was never declared innocent, which prevented him from receiving compensation for the wrongful conviction. Thanks to a new district attorney reopening his case, Brown was finally exonerated earlier this month, allowing him to receive as much as $80,000 for each year he spent in prison. “It’s been a long, long road for him,” said Brown’s lawyer, Neal Manne, “and it feels really good that the district attorney is now on his side.” (Texas Tribune)
  • Beating the trolls. Seventy-five thousand people have joined a Swedish Facebook Group that fights trolls with love. The group, called #jagärhär, Swedish for “I am here,” aims to do what governments and tech companies have not: change the conversation. Members enter comment sections that have turned toxic and leave positive notes; other times they support people who have been harassed. “We want the comment section to look more like society and the way to do this is enable people to speak and participate,” says Mina Dennert, the group’s founder. (The Guardian)
  • Love and nature. One of DC’s oldest hiking clubs is proving to be quite the matchmaker. Thanks to the Wanderbirds Hiking Club, at least 10 members have met through the hikes and gone off to marry. One of the couples, Marsha Johnston and Emil Friberg, even brought the club’s trail-marking red arrows to their wedding ceremony. Friberg said another club member encouraged him to ask out Johnston after seeing them together, saying, “Just do it!” So he did. (Washington Post)

This article has been updated. 

More MotherJones reporting on Recharge


The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.