A Syrian refugee family of seven will be starting their new life on the North Coast this summer or fall.
The Rupert Syrian Refugee Support (RSRS) group has been working towards this moment since last fall and were delayed after the federal government met its goal to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada.
What is known about the family so far is that the father has worked as an electrician and a baker, there are four boys aged 16, 15, 13 and seven and an 11-year-old girl. Three of the boys have worked in retail and at a coffee shop.
“We know that they do speak Arabic but we don’t know if that’s their only language,” said John Farrell, a member of the RSRS.
The Syrian family is coming from Lebanon but the RSRS doesn’t know how long they’ve been there. The Syrian civil war has lasted more than five years. Since the conflict began more than 4.5 million people have fled the country and 1 million of the refugees went to Lebanon.
While RSRS has gone through the application process to sponsor a Syrian family, there have been many fundraisers throughout the city, such as a theatre and dessert auction this month and cupcake day at all the schools in the district. The support group has raised a total of $30,000 and plans to continue raising funds to sponsor two more families as well.
A couple members of the group offered a home to the Syrians rent-free for one year. Steve Milum was one and he’s been working on renovations to his home to get it move-in ready for the newcomers. However, with the news that the Syrian family may arrive anywhere between four to 12 weeks, Kristi and John Farrell will offer their finished apartment to the Syrians.
“It’s the upper floor of a house so there’s enough room for them. They can move in whenever they get here,” Farrell said.
Many residents have been generous in their donations at fundraisers and Farrell said they’ve received a considerable number of household items.
In the next two weeks, the support group is going to make an inventory of what they need for the family to get the house ready for them. It also helps that they know the gender and ages of the children so they can start looking for more specific items, such as clothing.
Students in School District 52 have already been primed for when a Syrian family resettles in the city. Cupcake day wasn’t only a fundraiser, it was also an opportunity for teachers to discuss with students why the fundraiser was being held at the schools and why the Syrians are in need of the community’s help.
“With resources given to each school, teachers could choose from a variety of activities and lesson plans that focused on the refugee crisis, vocabulary awareness, as well as a list videos and websites that were appropriate for school-aged children,” Kate Lyon, the teacher librarian at Lax Kxeen Elementary School said in April during cupcake day.
Now schools can expect to welcome five new students, while the community prepares for the large family to feel at home in the North Coast.
“For the region it’s exciting because Terrace and Haida Gwaii have a family. We can start that networking among communities. Our dream was always to have three families so they would have a community and already we have three families within the region,” Farrell said.
The group is meeting tonight at 5 p.m. at the Lutheran Church to discuss the resettlement details and they will post on the RSRS Facebook page when they receive more information about the family and how the community can best prepare for their arrival.