Our Refugee Sponsorship Committee was community driven. Two local churches became involved because there were members from one of the churches on the committee and the church also had a suite for the family. Other very active members in the community had no ties to either church.
When the family arrived they had already been displaced for about five years, living in Lebanon, then Turkey and even separated during the escape from Syria. The father and two sons barely made it to Turkey. There are still two older adult children and small grandchildren living in Syria and one son living in another country. Separation from family is extremely difficult.
When they arrived here, there were no other Syrians and no other recent refugees, though there were a few Arabic speakers in our community. Language was a huge barrier. Even though Mennonite Central Committee was wonderful in support, there was no one nearby and the nearest large centre was a long way for day-to-day help.
Our community was generous in donating for the needs of this family, supplying them with all the furniture and household items they needed. They also generously gave their financial support and their time in arranging activities for the family.
Our literacy director, along with community volunteers, and our Adult Learning Centre were amazing and worked hard to give English lessons. The challenges in learning a new language were significant, but the family worked hard at learning. Once school started the sons had an advantage in language learning.
In addition to the steep learning curve they had in learning English, they also had challenges with cultural differences, the worry of finding work in Canada, and dealing with the trauma from leaving a war zone—especially with family left behind still living in it. Over time one family member came to need significant help with a medical issue which was difficult to deal with in the north. They asked if we could help them with a move to Winnipeg where they could access better medical care.
So after five months in our community and with assistance from MCC Manitoba, community volunteers, our church families, and the committee we were able to help them get resettled in Winnipeg. While we in the north continue with their financial support, MCC has arranged a support worker in Winnipeg who helps with daily challenges.
P.S. We were curious about why the family chose Canada. The son with the best English said he was interested in history and chose Canada because we did not have a history of colonizing or invading other countries.