It was a warm welcome despite the remaining snow on the ground for Parksville’s newest family.
The Qualicum Refugee Sponsorship Group’s Syrian refugee family of five arrived at Nanaimo Airport Friday morning (Dec. 22). The welcoming group consisted of a handful of QRSG17 members, an Arabic translator and her family and people waiting for their loved ones to arrive that morning, as well as The NEWS.
One woman who was waiting for someone else to arrive asked QRSG17 member Paul Kyba if the group was welcoming a Syrian refugee family.
When Kyba told her the family was indeed from Syria and would be living in Parksville, the woman’s eyes lit up, adding she also lives in Parksville and would be hopefully seeing them in the future.
Just a few minutes later, the mother, the father, who was holding the youngest child, and the two daughters walked off the plane and onto the tarmac and into the airport to be greeted by QRSG17 members and onlookers all holding mini Canadian flags.
The first few minutes were filled with introductions and pictures. The mother pulled out her phone and asked the translator Noura Abusaman to take a picture of the family with the QRSG17 group to send to family members back home.
Abusaman, who lives in Nanaimo with her family, said moving to Canada will be a big relief for the newcomer family.
“They fled Syria after a war — a horrible civil war, actually. I’m not sure exactly what they have been through, but for sure, like other families, they have been suffering and struggling,” Abusaman said. “This will be a good opportunity to live again in a safe country; for the kids, for them.”
Abusaman said there is a big Syrian and Arab community in Nanaimo.
“They will have a chance, actually, to communicate with them and have a relationship with other families. There is a mosque and an Islamic centre they can visit,” she said.
The first month or so, Abusaman said, will be hard for the family to adapt to things such as the weather, the language barrier and the cultural differences.
“They will just have (to take) the time to understand what is going on around them and how things are done in Canada which is totally different from Syria and Lebanon, but I think they will manage in their new life because of the group, because of the help,” Abusaman said.
Kyba said the QRSG17 members plan to give the family some space over its first few days.
“We want to give them lots of time to just settle in and recover from the trip because it’s been a long trip; young parents with three small children, so they need time on their own,” said Kyba, adding group members will be keeping an eye out in case the family requires any help or support.
After the family settles in, Kyba said, the group will be helping the family by setting up bank accounts, getting their Social Insurance Numbers, and “all of those kinds of things that we take for granted.”
Kyba also said the family will be introduced to the community and its phsyical environment.
“They’re coming from a very arid climate to a much different climate, so there will be some adjustment,” Kyba said.
The family was expected to arrive on Dec. 15, but Kyba said, the QRSG17 received a notice from the government a few days before the flight saying the family wouldn’t be arriving Dec. 15. Then a few days later, the group was notified the family would be arriving on Dec. 22.
Tony Davis, the North Island Refugee Program co-ordinator with the Anglican Diocese of B.C., has helped to welcome and integrate 30 families to the north Island, and this newcomer family is just the latest.
“The moment they arrive in Canada and they’ve been processed by our board of security people, they are now permanent residents of Canada, and we refer to them as newcomers. They’re not referred to as refugees anymore,” Davis said.