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Alkari family arrives in Swan River

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In our small community, we take safety and security for granted. But, for many families around the world, it is something they can only dream of.

Newcomers Tammam Alkari and Hind Alelabi, along with their sons, seven-year-old Omar, and six-month-old Modar, will now get to experience the peace that can be found here in our Valley.

With the help of a translation app, the family was able to share a bit about themselves and their journey to Canada.

“We are originally from Damascus, Syria, where the war has been devastating,” said Alelabi. “We fled from our home and lived in the Emirati Refugee Camp in Jordan for nine months in 2013.

“Then Tammam got a job in a plastics factory. We moved a few times while living in Jordan, but just prior to coming to Canada, we lived in the village of Al-Faisaliah, near Amman. Our son, Modar, was born there.”

While in Syria and Jordan, the couple met many Canadians who were welcoming and kind, which helped them make the decision to come to this country.

“It was a long, 36-hour journey to arrive here,” said Alelabi. “We did have an overnight stay in Toronto on May 10 before flying to Winnipeg on May 11, where we were met by members of the Swan Valley Refugee Committee (SVRC).

“Although we were tired, we were also very excited about our new life in Canada.

“The long drive from Winnipeg to Swan River was a bit of a surprise for us, and we were also concerned for the people who had already driven the five hours to fetch us,” Alelabi continued.

While the physical journey was long, the process of acceptance to Canada was also an extended process.

“The Canadian Embassy in Amman gave us an appointment, where we were questioned, a lot, about our country, Syria, and we were asked whether we participated in the war,” said Alelabi.

“After a month, the Embassy in Amman again contacted us and asked us to come and, once again, we had to answer many questions, especially about the war.

“After many months of waiting, the Embassy contacted us and we had to go for medical check-ups,” Alelabi continued. “We then went through an extensive screening process and various security checks, and one month later, the Canadian Embassy contacted us and we were told that we were candidates to travel to Canada.”

In the time between receiving approval and arriving in Canada, Alelabi became pregnant and had to inform the Embassy of this.

“We were told that this would not influence our status to come to Canada,” she said. “Modar was born in November, and when he was almost six months old, (the Canadian Embassy) called to tell us that in only ten days, we would finally travel to Canada.”

Being in a new country, with the chance at a new life, means a lot to the Alkari family.

“We have so many hopes for our new home,” said Alkari. “We love Canada because the people are modest and good. We had heard a lot about Canadian people, and the ones we have met have been nice. We dream of being friends.

“I have dreamed, since I was a small boy at school, that I could do something useful with my life. I want to do something good for others.

“Although I got good grades at school, the war in Syria prevented me from achieving my goals,” Alkari continued. “Here in Canada, we dream to help and do everything well, to the best of our ability.

“Hind and I dream to live with you in this community and to share sadness and happiness and to raise our children in this great country.”

Alelabi added that they have received mercy in their journey.

“Some of us love to work and help,” she said. “We dream of calm and reassurance.

“We hope that we, and our children, can learn because we heard that Canadian schools and education are excellent places of learning.”

The entire family has a steep learning curve ahead of them as they figure out a new language and a new home.

“Our lack of English is the biggest challenge so far, but we are learning fast,” concluded Alelabi, noting they not only have to learn how to speak another language, but they also have to learn a new alphabet in addition to learning to read from left to right instead of the other way around. “Also, to be accepted into this community is also a challenge for us, but we trust we will overcome this soon.

“Our family is very happy here.”

Stepping in alongside the Alkari family is the SVRC, with 12 members, who have undertaken the daunting task of helping the newcomers settle into their home.

“I cannot possibly speak for all members of our committee, but on the whole, I think we would agree that this has been a most rewarding year of preparation, fundraising and lots of hard work,” said SVRC Chair Jenny Sprong.

“We worked closely with the Mennonite Central Committee, and they have been very supportive and have given us the guidelines we need to make this settlement process a smooth one for the Alkari family.

“Many people have donated in various ways, and this has indicated how welcome the family is in our Valley,” Sprong continued.

Sprong noted that through the process, the most challenging tasks were the piles of paperwork, gathering the right checks, and insurance forms, which were required of each committee member and any volunteer who wishes to have contact with the new family.

“We have had to work very hard to make sure everything was done properly, to protect the family,” she said.

“Another difficuly has been to manage how to give the family enough space to adjust, while at the same time, checking in with them often enough to give them a sense of security.”

Throughout the settling process, and going forward, Sprong acknowledged the tremendous support the SVRC has received.

“Taking on a task such as this is a huge undertaking,” she concluded. “We are very conscious of the responsibilities upon us, but we are also aware of the immense privilege it is to be part of this process, in however small a way, to assist the Alkari family in integrating fully into Canadian life.”

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Jessica Bergen
REPORTER
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