Richmond Village Refugee Welcome finally welcomes their sponsored Syrian family to Ottawa

photo by Barb Kernovan

by Stephanie Williams

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]Air Canada Flight AC450 from Toronto landed in Ottawa on time at 1:10 p.m. on Thursday June 21. The first person off the plane was Heba (centre above) whose sister Sanna ( right ,above) greeted her joyfully after a five year separation.

RVRW has worked on the immigration of the family of 6 from Syria to Canada since December 2015. For us the time has been long but the wait must have felt endless for the family held up seemingly indefinitely in Turkey.

The task has been arduous and complex. It was initiated at a tentative meeting called by Michel Dubord at St. John’s church hall December 2015 at which a group of Richmond residents determined to undertake the sponsorship of a family. Elizabeth Mann assumed the leadership of the group and must be recognized not only for her resourcefulness & tireless determination to bring this undertaking to fruition, but also for building and leading the team that is Richmond Village Refugee Welcome.

Under Elizabeth’s leadership team members have solicited donations and set up secure financial arrangements, run fundraising events , and accumulated the myriad items required to set up an apartment. Once the apartment was secured (in the very same building as Heba’s sister and her family live in) it was furnished and provisioned with basic supplies . But the most challenging aspect was the administration of the legal process required for the family to be admitted to Canada as New Canadians.

The family have taken a few days to decompress and settle in to their new surroundings but now a new barrage of challenges arise. Volunteers are arranging to furnish Ontario documentation, such as health cards, the family will need bus passes, the language poses a hurdle that volunteers are tackling by providing English as a Second Language coaching until formal training can begin.  Activities for the 4 boys are being planned, such as a short stint at summer camp, and participation in soccer and or fitness clubs. It will be a busy summer!

RVRW participants at Ottawa International Airport to welcome the Syrian family on Thursday June 21. Photo by Barb Kernovan