It is a day of joy and celebration. One year ago a family of five smiling and exhausted travelers stand wide eyed before us at the Calgary airport. Syrian refugees to Canada they place all their hopes and dreams in the hands of people they have never met. Our hands.
Through the past year the vision of these refugees from Syria, approaching our Canadian flag-waving, sign-holding sponsorship group, often leaps to my mind.
The family with a handful of English words between them. We with language translation apps on our phones frantically buzzing. This is how our international friendship begins.
Having spent almost three years in a refugee camp in Jordan, arrival day in Canada has been long in coming. Each of our guests bring a single bag of possessions and unimaginable courage.
Syrian Refugees to Canada – By the Numbers
Since November, 2015, the number of Syrian refugees to Canada stands at 35,147. With Canada’s election in the fall of 2015, the new Liberal government, headed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, came the promise of resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees by year end.
The task before Canadian citizens and civil servants was a massive undertaking. The goal was achieved, albeit a few months late, in February 2016.
Of the 25,000 Syrians who arrive, private sponsorships by families, individuals and churches total more than 13,000. Government sponsored refugees made up the majority of those Syrian immigrants seeking refuge in Canada.
Syrian Refugees welcome – One year in Canada
At times it seems that the past 365 days have spun by like a calendar caught in a windstorm. For our Syrian refugees an intense immersion into all things Canada. The endless list of things to learn from banking to buying groceries and driving in snow.
There is that small matter of learning a new language that has a different alphabet.
One year later we laugh and talk visiting the family. The language translator app has not been called upon for months.
The children in Grades 2, 7 and 8 are doing well immersed in the regular public school system. Mom and Dad continue with their daily English classes.
The biggest challenge of all
To those who have been immigrants in a new country and those who have been involved in helping refugees you may guess the biggest challenge of all.
Finding employment, particularly in an economic downturn as is the case here in Calgary, feels a bit like arriving at base camp of Everest after having reached the summit of Kilimanjaro.
Today we celebrate Dad finding a fair paying, full time job. His employer recognizes the importance of mastering English. The new job hours are adjusted to allow for the continuation of morning English classes.
We are so proud of his accomplishment. From the day of arrival this Syrian father has yearned to support his family.
This family of Syrian refugees to Canada have exuded gratitude and warmth from the moment our eyes met at the airport. With each visit they model to us acceptance, adaptability, perseverance and hope.
We are forever thankful for the positive impact this Syrian family is bestowing on us We once sponsors are now friends. Available for guidance and conversation and celebrations of special occasions.
Oh and those Canadian flags from the airport? We smile each time we see them proudly displayed on the wall of the family’s home.
“Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.” ~Mahatma Gandhi~