Toma, his wife Sahar and their two-year-old daughter, Angel, finally met the congregation from the Church of the Asencion that helped them come to Canada to start a new life.
It was a joyful moment for the family, who prior to coming here, had lived in an Iraqi refugee camp before escaping to Lebanon. They arrived here in Parksville on April 17, but only got to meet their sponsors at the Sunday morning mass April 22. They received a heartwarming and welcoming applause after they were introduced by Father Mike Favero.
The family hardly speak a word of English but their gratitude could be felt from the embraces they imparted to different people who came to greet them and welcome them to Parksville.
Sahar, whose smile was hard not to notice, said in the few English words that she knows, “I am so happy.”
The young Angel, with her curly locks and wide eyes, stole the hearts of many in the church. At first she was somewhat overwhelmed by the many members who approached to talk to her, but it didn’t take long for her to warm up to people, some of whom brought presents.
Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns came to the church to greet and meet the family. The congregation thanked Johns for his assistance but he passed the credit to his staff, who he said, did most of the work to help accelerate the arrival of the family, which had been waiting for three years. He commended the congregation from the Church of Ascension for supporting the family.
“You are making a huge difference,” Johns told the congregation. “There are over 70 million people that are displaced right now in the world. I was just in Palestine at a refugee camp, seeing people and the challenges they are facing. You are changing lives and making the world a better place.”
John also describes it as “a wonderful story.”
“It’s about community,” said Johns. “Our job as politicians is to lift the champions in our community. Inspiring people that are involved with the church that came together. The hard work of this group is really an inspiring story for all Canadians to see what can be done. That we can all make a difference not just in your home but around the world.”
Sandi Digras, the church’s refugee committee president, despite looking tired from making sure the new family is nicely settled and looked after, expressed relief and joy.
“It’s been three years and they’re finally here,” said Digras. “I am so happy that it has finally happened. The hard work everyone has put into bringing them here was inspiring and commendable.”
Also present was a Syrian refugee family from Port Alberni, who have been in the country now since 2016. They were brought to Vancouver Island by the Port Alberni Refugee Sponsorship Committee.