When the Natal Day fireworks boomed up the harbour on Saturday night, some quick phone calls went around our sponsor group. Had anyone warned our family that this was coming? Would they be worried? Would the popping and bangs trigger bad memories?
No one had warned the family. They had arrived in Canada just six days ago. As I happened to be driving near the family’s North-end apartment, I decided to swing by to see if they were out in the street, fearful of the noise.
They were outside alright, but there was no fear. The grownups and eldest child were socializing on their front porch with a neighbour. The family hadn’t known the sounds were fireworks, but their new friend had explained it. I was invited to join them. Soon, two more neighbours — one of whom who speaks Arabic — came over fresh after having watched the fireworks downtown.
The family offered us Helal chicken and spiced rice, food they had bought at Sobeys immediately after their ISANS intake appointment on Friday. Their laughter and animated conversation caused me a thought I had no expectation of ever having during the last year of waiting for them: Would the family, who left Syria and endured years in a neighbouring country, cap off their first week in their new country getting a police visit for a noise complaint?
The impromptu party was a high point in a week of emotional highs and some frustrating lows.
Among the lows: Our plan for resettling the family has not considered the time, concern and technical challenges of getting their cellphones to work. Our plan had not considered how little the family knew about the Blended Visa program when they arrived. Our Day 1 schedule called for a walk around the neighbourhood; instead we answered 90 minutes of almost-frantic questions about when the Child Tax Benefit runs out and how they would receive monthly income. Our plan had also not considered little daily obstacles common in all of our lives. For example, who knew it would take two aborted trips (on account of crying infants and toddlers) before we reached Dollarama to buy spice jars and a drying rack.
But we are on track. There have been huge highs. Michael at PC Mobile on Joseph Howe spent over an hour sorting out the family’s cellphones. Samer at BMO, who signed our family up for bank accounts one day and visited them on his day off to help with a plumbing issue two days later. And our volunteer translators have been hugely helpful, kind and committed.
Almost all of our Welcome Shores sponsor group was at the airport last week to welcome the family. Andrea, Heather, Kristine, Andrew and I have had the huge privilege of spending time with the family this first week. But I am finding that strangers, a huge network of helpful people in this city, are being just as big a help to our newest neighbours.