The first Syrian family to arrive in Terrace is settling in after being greeted by a small group of sponsors and others at the Northwest Regional Airport June 15.
Amer and Rahma al Kadro and their three young children Zeinab, 7, Youssef, 5, and Abd al Elah, 4, got off an Air Canada Jazz flight from Vancouver, ending a journey which began many hours before in Beirut, Lebanon.
Sponsors, supporters, and two local Arabic translators broke into applause as the family entered through the airport’s arrival doors.
The family has been staying in a refugee camp in Lebanon since fleeing an unnamed Syrian city some years ago.
The local sponsorship group heard only a week prior to their arrival that the family was booked to travel from Beirut, Lebanon to Terrace.
“We’ve had these names for a couple of months and knew that they were coming at some point we just didn’t know when and it’s great to actually get to know who these people are,” said Heather Hayes, a member of the sponsorship group.
Prior to meeting the family in person, the group only knew the little information provided by documents out of the Canadian refugee processing centre in Beirut.
Now the sponsors will be providing the family with financial and social supports for their first year in Canada. As part of the blended-visa program, the federal government will also cover six months of the family’s living expenses.
Sponsors picked the family up at the airport drove them to their new fully-stocked suite in Terrace and are working to help them start learning the language.
“They seem really enthusiastic and they seem like they are excited to be here. They’ve said that their first priority is learning English so they want to get started on that pretty quickly,” noted Hayes.
“I think they are settling in well, they kept walking through the apartment and they kept saying ‘oh this is wonderful, this is fantastic’ through the translator so I think they were really happy and surprised about everything that was here for them,” she continued.
A local translator has been visiting the family daily to help them get through the paperwork required for proper Canadian identification.
They hope that a language tutor from Terrace Literacy will soon be able to visit as well.
The welcome here has reportedly been more than the family expected, says Hayes, and the number of people who were waiting at the airport gate came as a shock.
“They said that they were surprised, but it was nice to be welcomed,” remarked Hayes.
Another sponsorship group in town has been matched with a Syrian family and are waiting to hear when they might arrive.
The sponsoring groups, called a ‘Group of Five’ under government terminology associated with bringing in refugees, have been working with the Skeena Diversity Centre since last year to raise the $27,000 in cash and kind required to support each family.
Additionally, the Terrace Evangelical Free Church and the Christian Reformed Church are going through a different process to assist in bringing in two more families from Syria and Iraq.
Hayes plans to hold off on any formal welcome event while the first family settles in.
“It’s still pretty early and it is Ramadan so the family is fasting,” she said of the Muslim observance.
“I think we’ll wait for any sort of big welcoming until after Eid which marks the end of Ramadam and that’s at the beginning of July.”