Peace By Chocolate: How Helping Promotes Healing

Peace By Chocolate is more than an inspiring Canadian business story. It is an incredible example of the healing power of helping. 

Issam Hadhad had a passion for the craft of making chocolate. So he opened up his own factory near his home in Damascus, Syria. For over 20 years their family shipped specialty treats that sweetened the lives of people across the middle east. But during the conflict in Syria the factory was bombed, tearing their lives apart, forcing the family to leave everything behind. 

When the community of Antigonish formed Syria-Antigonish Families Embrace (SAFE), an organization to help Syrian families displaced by war resettle in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, they could not have imagined the impact they would have. After three years of uncertainty, SAFE sponsored the Hadhad family. 

Issam's son, Tareq recalls the welcome he and his family received when arriving in Antigonish. “They made me feel safe. They didn’t know anything about me, my religion, my background or anything but they worked so hard to receive me and my family. There were huge signs with our names written in Arabic ‘Welcome to Canada.’ That first week of our arrival erased three years of suffering in a refugee camp in Lebanon.” 

Determined to Give Back

With the support they received, the Hadhad family used their expertise to start a small local chocolate business, Peace By Chocolate. They were so moved by the support they received, they began selling chocolates at the local market, and donating money to help others who were suffering in similar ways. Their story and their business grew.

When wildfires in Fort McMurray forced people from their homes, the Hadhad family sold chocolate and donated money to help Albertans displaced by the fires. That was the beginning of their Peace on Earth Society, a non profit the Hedhad family founded to to help fund relief organizations and build partnerships to support social peace building causes.

More recently, Peace By Chocolate - The Film, was released on June 17th, 2021 at the Tribeca Film Festival, telling the family's inspiring story.  

Tareq Thank You

How to Find Renewed Hope

When you have been violated, traumatized, or the most precious things in your life have been lost lost, destroyed or stolen, it can shatter your confidence in yourself and the world. It can make you question everything you believe. 

When the community of Antigonish came together to support the Hadhad family, they didn't just help Issam and his family rebuild their lives. They re-established their faith in humanity, in themselves, and inspired them to help others, creating an even larger movement. 

Peace Bars

When you have suffered from a traumatic event or a significant setback, you will need time to come to terms with the loss. But in time, you will see that you are not alone, that others like you, are suffering, and that there are people who want to help you, giving you a renewed sense of purpose.

Purposeful activities give you a sharp sense of clarity and focus. They allow you to develop and draw upon you experiences and use your skills and talents. Most importantly, they will provide you with renewed energy, and connect you with other like-minded individuals. 

Activities that give you purpose lift your mood and build pathways in the brain that promote healing and improve your mental health. 

Syria-Antigonish Families Embrace

Helping Promotes Healing

Do you ever look at people who volunteer and wonder where their goodwill and generosity come from? They typically aren't just do gooders with no problems in life and natural desire to help. They are often people who intimately know and understand suffering. Helping is a way of healing themselves. It provides them with new friends and supports, renewed hope and a deep sense of belonging. Or a way of giving back.

Syria-Antigonish Families Embrace (SAFE) is a wonderful example of the many ways community organizations can help. They connect newcomers with a range of supports that provide ideas for how you might help in your own community.


  • Help others search for suitable housing in your community 
  • Supply furniture, appliances and any additional items for those in need


  • Organize or provide transportation for people without access to a vehicle
  • Donate public transportation passes, and explain the bus/train schedule and routes
  • Offer driving lessons for those applying for an international driver license 


  • Connect individuals to organizations that help people find employment
  • Use your network to connect people with potential employers 
  • Help write resumes, cover letters and connect people’s skills to job descriptions


  • Use your language skills to help newcomers overcoming the language barrier 
  • Create a social network for newcomers and improve their sense of community belonging


  • Take people to local colleges or universities so they can learn about options
  • Volunteer as a tutor for children/adults to achieve their educational goals

Financial Services

  • Offer financial planning and budgeting advice or connect them with a financial institution
  • Connect people with government services and non-profits that provide financial services
  • Donate to organizations and causes that you believe are important 


  • Help people find and connect with doctors and other healthcare providers
  • Provide transportation and translation enabling people to access mental and physical health care services
Five Star Wellbeing Action Item

What's special about the Hadhad family, is that they continue to share the story of how the help they received, allowed them to heal. Then they built a business around helping others too.

There are endless ways that you can help. You have experience and skills to offer. 

Think about what problems and challenges you have had to overcome. What did you learn from the experience? What do others need? Who may be going through a similar problem for the first time? 

Peace By Chocolate is a perfect example of how helping others can promote healing for yourself and others.  

Take good care,


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About the Author:

Derrick McEachern is a Registered Counselling Therapist (RCT) in Nova Scotia, and a Canadian Certified Counsellor.  He specializes in providing mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in the areas of addiction, healthy relationships, grief and loss, and career and life transitions. He offers workshops and webinars and consults with businesses on ways to improve employee wellbeing and mental health.

Derrick McEachern

Derrick McEachern, M.Ed., RCT, CCC
Counselling Therapist, Owner
Five Star Wellbeing Counselling and Mental Health
tel: 902 698 1194
[email protected]

Nova Scotia College of Counselling Therapists
Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association