First. It’s a small word, but one that can imply a lot. It’s a word which struck me hard when I read it on a particular day last summer. We had spent months preparing for our sponsored family to arrive, and then that amazing emotional day in July came, and they were here. Our news had been shared on facebook by another sponsorship group, the Bay Refugee Project, with these words: “Congratulations to Welcome Shores refugee group on the arrival of their first family in North End Halifax”.
When I read that sentence the word “first” jumped out at me. As if this were just the first of many sponsorships we planned on doing. “That person from Bay Refugee Project has it wrong”, I thought to myself, “there is no way we are doing this all again. We’ve done our share”.
I think for most of our volunteers, after many months of harassing family and friends for donations, sourcing clothes and household goods, setting up one apartment, moving out of that apartment, and then setting up a second apartment it would have been difficult to imagine that in less than a year we would be starting the process again. The thing is, every person who arrives here fleeing from war leaves part of their heart behind with their family and friends. As we have gotten to know our family we see that there are others back home they would like to help, ideally to bring them here to share their new life in Canada. So we have re-formed, with some new members on board including Hala and Ali, the parents of our first family.
Many of our friends and supporters have heard informal updates about the family over the past months. Now that they have settled in we felt it was time we could ask their permission to share a little more about them with those who may not have direct contact with members of our group.
Hala and Ali come from the northern part of Syria and belong to the Kurdish ethnic group. They lived in Lebanon before coming to Canada last July. Their children are two girls (ages 13 & 1) and one boy (age 5).
Hala, mama, is a warm passionate person with a great sense of humour who loves to cook and works incredibly hard to care for her family. She arrived speaking a little bit of English (which she says she learned from watching movies) and has made amazing progress in her studies. Soon after we met her she seemed like an old friend.
Dad, Ali, loves sports, especially soccer. He had very little English before arriving in Canada and has also been working hard at his lessons. In spite of not having all the English words he would like to express himself he always manages to get his sense of humour across. He is a really kind and caring dad to his kids. He has worked as a chauffeur in the past and is eager to start working in Canada as soon as he can.
The kids are doing so well here; oldest daughter Dounia is on the honour roll in grade 7 and has made new friends. The boy Youssef is a great soccer player and attends preschool this year. He has picked up English very quickly. He will start primary this fall. Baby Eva recently turned 1 and everyone who meets her agrees she is one of the cutest and best-natured babies they have ever known.
We have really grown to love this family over the past months; they long to be reunited with Ali’s sister and her family (husband, three sons, and a daughter). We are moving forward in applying to sponsor Ali’s sister’s family to come to Canada as well. Like Hala and Ali, this family have been living in a precarious position for the past few years.
The sponsorship process could take two years or more, but we have been lucky to obtain six sponsorship spots through ISANS, so we can begin raising money to have enough funds available for their first year. The great news is that we already have about $15,000 available to us. That means our goal this time around will be to raise approximately $14,000.
Last time we pulled together we raised $29,000 in about a month. We met for the first time as our new group this weekend to generate new ideas for fundraising. We thank you for your help supporting our first family; your generosity has enabled them to have warm clothes and a safe home. I hope you will consider helping bring our next family to North End Halifax too!