The first few weeks in a new country with a vastly different culture and language are usually a bit of a learning curve, and the chair of the Rupert Syrian Refugee Support (RSRS) group provided an update on how the newcomers from Syria are doing.
The family of seven arrived at the Prince Rupert airport on Sept. 9 with most of their living essentials prepared for them. John Farrell, the chair of RSRS, was among the handful of people who welcomed them. The group has two translators and Farrell has come to learn the family’s story.
Syria’s civil war broke out in March 2011 and the family was on the run for five years. At first they were internal refugees within the city of Homs. They ran from tanks and then aerial bombings.
“They would move to a safer part of the city and then that part of the city would be bombed. Then Tammam, the father, realized his boys could be scripted into the army at any point and then they would be forced to kill their neighbours,” Farrell said.
Tamman has four boys and one girl. He decided to get them out of Syria through Lebanon. They registered with the United Nations, who recommended they go to Canada and they spent a year going through security interviews to finally reach the North Coast shores.
When they reached safety in Lebanon, the family was given an apartment they had to pay for. The older boys stopped going to school to help pay for the apartment. However, the girl, Amal who is 11-years-old and the youngest boy, Thaer, who is seven-years-old, continued attending classes.
With the new school year beginning in Prince Rupert, the Syrian children were registered by the RSRS group to start their education again.
“Today, five of the children went to school and two went to Charles Hays, two went to the middle school and one went Lax Kxeen elementary. The reports I got were that they were so excited to be here and they are very happy and cheerful about going to school,” said Sandy Jones, the superintendent of School District 52, at the school district meeting last Tuesday.
The RSRS group is also introducing the family to the West Coast culture. On Sunday, Sept. 11, members of the committee held an open house and offered crab to the family. Farrell said the boys were grossed out, but once they tasted the crab meat they liked it.
Other introductions have included grocery shopping and Farrell and other RSRS members took the family fishing off the harbour. Farrell said the family seem to be doing well, aside from a few hiccups regarding the house. On the family’s first night in Prince Rupert, they asked about the secret police in the city.
“I said, no worries, no one is going to be knocking at your door at midnight,” Farrell said. “And then our renters below them said there’s water coming through the ceiling. There I was at midnight knocking at the door. They’re all freaking out inside. Kristi is going, ‘It’s okay it’s just us. We have to stop the water’,” Farrell shook his head at the memory.
There will surely be many more interesting adventures for the family to come.