“It takes a Village … ”
Siham Al Mohamed and her family of seven children arrived from Lebanon on December 16, 2020. Upon arrival they entered quarantine and by the time they finished their 14 days we were in provincial lockdown, which then tightened into Stay-at-home orders. Two months later, on Feb 16 as we were all easing back into a (slightly!) lighter restriction they had just moved into their permanent home and were starting school.
What a frame for the beginning of their life in Canada! Living in isolation from the very people they came for – her sister Khairiya and her family – and adjusting to a cold, foreign place with very little in-person support. And yet, every time we see them either briefly at the door or in virtual meetings we are greeted with big smiles and ongoing rounds of “Thank you!”.
Even though from the outside it might not have looked like much was changing during those 2 months, the Resettlement Committee (RSC) was busier than ever preparing for their future here. What’s involved? Here’s a snapshot – imagine these activities with almost no face-to-face contact. Then add technology and language barriers!
|Orientation and Relationship Buildingto the local park; to our city and its cultural support groups; to Canada – getting a SIN card!||TransportationFrom the airport, to shopping and medical appointments, to their new home, to school||Finance Budgeting, banking, Child Tax Benefit applications|
|Education registering and planning for Howard Robertson Elementary, Sunnyside Senior Public and Eastwood C.I.||Health Visits to Joseph St Refugee Health Clinic, applying for dental support, OHIP, tracking Covid symptoms during quarantine|
|Clothingmuch of it donated from the Parkminster congregation.||HousingQuarantine housing and first-year housing, Hydro, WiFi, co-ordinating the move||Furniture Beds, new mattresses for 8, kitchen and household effects, computers – much donated from Parkminster|
There are 14 Members of the RSC, which is co-chaired by Nancy Dykstra and Jim Bowman. That number doubles and triples because so many friends and family and Parkminster members are involved. Siham’s sister, Khairiya and her family are an integral part of the committee. They are their emotional lifeline. They bridge language and cultural barriers and provide concrete support for everyday living.
And the circles expand beyond our Parkminster community. Priscilla is our invaluable interpreter who has agreed to assist whenever we need her help. RSC members have worked with local Refugee Settlement staff, National United Church staff, teachers and administrators in our schools, settlement workers from the YMCA, not to mention countless government employees as they complete what seems like endless paperwork!
The ripples of support and assistance that have been offered by so many have been beyond all expectations!
We all share in the blessings of social interaction and relationship, compassion and gratitude as we witness the generosity, courage and resilience of Siham and her family and welcome them into our ‘village’.
As this is being written, Siham sits drinking tea on her first day in her new home. She has been dreaming about this for a long time, she told Cobie, and she is very, very happy.