After months of planning and preparation—lots of paperwork and just as much legwork to find housing and take care of all the details that come with living in Canada—the refugee committee of the Sarnia-area Christian Reformed churches welcomed a refugee family to Canada on December 31.
Mohammad and Diana arrived in Toronto with their three young daughters on New Year’s Eve. Once they had arrived in Sarnia, they settled into the apartment prepared for them and rested from the long journey. Then they were ready to begin settling into the culture. The family has visited one of the sponsoring churches and plans to visit the others. The girls have been vaccinated and will start school shortly.
“The first few days were very busy,” said committee chair Henny Drope, who joined the committee in 1994. Tasks included setting up a bank account, applying for Ontario health care, and filling out applications and forms.
As the family does not speak English, the committee has gratefully accepted the help of William Moshe as a translator. William and his wife, Marlin, from Iraq, were sponsored by the refugee committee 19 years ago and are eager to help the newcomers. Two retired ESL teachers will work with the Al-Khalil family to help them learn English.
While there are varying levels of experience among committee members, as a group they are no strangers to refugee sponsorship. Formed of members from First, Living Hope, Redeemer, and Wyoming CRCs, the committee has been sponsoring refugees since the 1970s. “The very first was a family from Vietnam. . . . The catalyst was the large number of ‘boat people’ coming from Vietnam during that war,” said Drope. Since then, the committee has sponsored families and individuals from many countries.
This year, the group has pledged to support two Syrian refugee families. In an agreement made through World Renew, the committee is partnering with the government to provide support for a year for the Al-Khalil family and another family.
“They are so very appreciative and thankful for everything. . . . They are all eager to make a life here in Canada by learning the language and finding work,” said Drope. “We feel very blessed that we have been able to help one family escape from living in a camp and to help them start a new life in Canada.”