The core group has been trying for days to draft an update on how it's all going with the Syrian family. It's been a whirlwind...and a good one! We cannot begin to tell you all the things that have gone on. We have found them to be a delightful group of people, and are rapidly falling in love with them all. Here's some of the highlights.
From their Thursday night arrival at the airport--and the heart-opening spontaneous Oh Canada--we took them to their new temporary quarters in Fairfield (a suite generously donated short term by the Fairfield Constituency Group). Our in-kind committee had laboured tirelessly to make the place welcome and warm, including a fridge full of Eastern Mediterranean food . There were a thousand questions to answer. But after a short time, we left the tired folks to themselves, with many thank yous and welcomes (shukran, marhabaan). The next day was brim full of explanations of many basics, including some safety features of the house (the smoke alarm, through nobody's fault, went off in the middle of the first night--pretty freaky!) We had much laughter at our mutual attempts to speak each other's language and were delighted to hear hesitant but growing phrases and sentences from everyone. We bundled up the kids--including one of our core group's 11-year-old--and headed for a walk around the neighbourhood, climbing up Moss Rocks for a panoramic view of their new city. To round out the day, we brought the family to see their new, long-term home in Fairfield, a bright roomy upper 3-bedroom suite in Fernwood. They met the house owners, who are thrilled to have them living there. We managed to fit in a shopping trip to the butcher, who greeted the family in Arabic, and to Fairways Market for vegetables.
Friday was busy again, first with a visit to the elementary where the youngest will soon be going to kindergarten. Then it was off to the Mosque for Friday prayers. We were all invited in and were honored to take part. We ran across the street in driving rain to sit in the Crystal pool lobby and eat an impromptu lunch of humus, pita and vegetables.
Saturday was filled with discussions of budgets and organizing paperwork needed for schooling and other reporting. Plus a trip to a local playground.
Throughout all this, our small core of interpreters have worked like heroes to keep communication flowing. And our gracious family has presented us all with a stream of coffee (very strong!), tea, fruit and baklava. The social calendar is beginning to open out as we are finding connections to other Syrian families, invitations to pot lucks and so on.
Starting the new year, our group of enthusiastic volunteers gathered at Nina's house to introduce new members to each other and begin planning our very busy coming months. We were all impressed by the diverse range of skills and experience our group shares.
We have professional fund-raisers, counsellors, social worker, teachers, computer experts and more. To manage a rapidly growing set of tasks and logistics, we are launching a number of committees, each with a coordinator. We have--among others--fund-raising, housing, medical, language, cultural and employment committees. Aside from the group shown here, various other people who have volunteered are waiting in the wings to begin helping out.
Many of our tasks require immediate attention, such as finding housing for a family which may be arriving within six weeks! There is a mountain of paperwork to prepare--everything from refugee forms to applying for BC Medical Insurance. We are collecting a growing list of in-kind donations (clothing, furniture, dishes, etc) that must be sorted and stored. We will need to arrange language lessons, school attendance and find medical resources.
Stay tuned, we hope to have some details very soon on the Syrian family we will be supporting for a year!
Our process of identifying, bringing to Victoria, settling and supporting a family has a lot of moving parts! Our group is learning lots as we go. We will keep our friends and contributors up-to-date as we go.