So, I am really not a great blogger. Clearly it has been a while since I’ve written an update. My excuse? Nothing was happening … and now everything is! When I last wrote, we had been advised that the arrival of “our” family was imminent. They’d been cleared to travel and were, for some reason we still don’t know, considered urgent. Then, as was widely reported in the media, the wheels seemed to come off our government’s refugee commitment and we were back to the long and uncertain wait.
We made the difficult decision to sublet the apartment we had secured, feeling we could no longer justify paying rent each month for a family whose arrival date was no longer known. With heavy hearts and a fair dose of frustration, the team moved everything out (all that carefully gathered and curated furniture, clothing, dishes and more) and into storage.
And, then, just as we were about to let the apartment go, we got the call. And I mean just!!! The family would arrive in Canada on October 15. We had a mere few days to get everything moved back in, restock the pantry, remobilize the sponsoring team and shift into very into high gear.
But that’s not the exciting news. The big news is that the family has now arrived! A small contingent met them at the airport with two of our amazing interpreters, all of whom have given and continue to give so generously of their time to help us communicate with each other. Welcome signs were waved, the kids were greeted with stuffed toys and we brought the weary but gracious travellers home to their apartment for a welcoming meal together. It was a gorgeously warm sunny day to welcome a family to their new country.
The kids quickly melted our hearts, and mom and dad are settling in well, dealing calmly with an overwhelming amount of to-dos
The past two weeks have been jam packed with resettlement activity for Mom, Dad and their four beautiful children, ranging in age from a smiling cherubic baby girl of 10 months (who since arriving has begun to stand and take her first wobbly steps) to her very charming, very ACTIVE two-year-old brother and her two gentle, lovely older sisters, ages 6 and 9 (I won’t be sharing names in this blog until and unless I know the family is comfortable with this.) The kids quickly melted our hearts, and mom and dad are settling in well, dealing calmly with an overwhelming amount of to-dos, including banking, grocery shopping, navigating transit, visiting the resettlement agency, having ESL assessments and seeing the two oldest girls off to school for the first time in …. maybe ever?
I was honoured and blessed to be present for the first day of school. We were met by an incredibly supportive team from the school including the school’s Syrian (yay!) breakfast club co-ordinator. The girls were paired with other Arabic speaking children to help them out, and after a tour, loads of information and many warm welcomes from the staff and administration, the girls took their leave of their Dad. There were tears all around – some anxious ones, many emotional ones. Now the tears are dried and the girls have reported they’ve already made new friends and even gone on a skating trip! We’ve got more of that planned as the weather turns.
Speaking of which, one of our other outings was procuring winter boots and coats for everyone. I am not sure they knew what to think when it began to register that the minus 40 degree ratings on their new boots might be necessary in the coming months. The Canadian winter is not one easily communicated! My feeling is it’s probably better to eke out that information ever so gradually, giving everyone time to adjust.
On this outing, our interpreter was a lovely young man who arrived in August as a refugee from Sudan. He has yet to experience his first winter either. Hated like hell for him to see those boots! He has proved to be exceptionally kind, helpful, patient, intelligent and attentive to the family’s needs. (Initially he did not want to receive any compensation for his many hours of time, explaining it was his way to give thanks for what had been done for him. We insisted, and feel very fortunate to be the beneficiary of his good nature and great communication skills.) In my conversation with him, I learned that his entire family had been killed in the war in Darfur. The grace he exhibits despite this unfathomable tragedy in his family and his country is quite astonishing, and brings it all home again why we are doing what we are doing.
Last night the family experienced their first Halloween. They came for dinner at a sponsoring group member’s home and afterward headed off down the street to trick or treat, where they were also able to meet many of the people who have contributed time and money to bring them to Canada. As our team member reported afterward “It was a whirlwind! Kids who I thought would be trepidatious sprinted down the street once they figured it all out – one of the girls holding my hand and chattering away, her brother dragging his candy bag behind him but refusing to let anyone help, and the oldest girl shyly but persistently hitting every door. Now just imagine what Halloween 2017 will look like!”
As our focus shifts from the hectic first days of paperwork and procuring for the family, we are looking forward to planning more of these happy times together, showing them the Canada we are welcoming them to, and learning more about the country they left to make this one their home.
(If you’d like to follow from there to here you can do so by clicking on the link in the top right corner, scrolling down to “follow this blog”and entering your email address.)