After a year and a half of planning and waiting, family of seven approved to come to Canada
Rev. Elise Chambers is excited but cautious.
The pastor of Christ Church, Petrolia and a member of the Lambton Anglican Refugee Committee says they finally have confirmation the Syrian refugee family they have been waiting for will arrive in Petrolia in early June.
“Part of me is ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ because it has been so long with so many stops and starts.”
The church first announced its intention to sponsor a Syrian family in December 2015 when the Liberal government announced it would accept 25,000 Syrian refugees to help ease the crisis spawned by five years of war in the Middle Eastern country.
By January, they had a house and all the supplies needed for their family of six ready and waiting. But the waiting was endless.
Then, last week, the father called the interpreter in Sarnia to say the United Nations had approved their travel and the now family of seven would arrive in Toronto June 8 and likely come home to Petrolia the next day.
“When we first heard from them they had four children, there are now five. The newest baby they have is a year in June,” says Chambers.
The baby joins his parents and siblings aged 2, 3, 6 and 7 for the trip.
“The family had to prove the new baby was theirs and that was all extra leg work,” she says adding the family would have to travel three hours by bus to get all the paperwork in order.
“But it looks like we’re finally there.
“I’m very, very excited but also cautiously optimistic because we have so many set backs,” says Chambers.
Everything has been waiting for the family for some time. The home they will live in has been secured and furnished for over a year.
The refugee committee has been able to rent it out to save some money while they waited.
Car seats have all been secured including a brand new one that was donated after they found out the family had grown.
The father, who is licensed as a cab driver, will likely be able to get his Ontario driver’s license fairly quickly so the committee is now trying to find a van which will seat seven for the family.
Chambers says the father will begin English lessons right away and three retired English as a Second Language teachers will tutor the mother in her new home while she cares for the children.
Chambers says the family’s life here will be far different than what they’ve experienced after fleeing Syria for Lebanon.
“The family is living in a tent made of plastic, outside of an area of Lebanon I don’t even know and they share it with another family, there are no bathrooms,” she says.
“Lebanon allowed refuges in but they have no infrastructure in place for them, don’t even have a refugee camp … They have said ‘yes, you can be there, no bathroom, no food supplies or money,’ people have just done for each other. It’s horrendous.
“All of these things that are so normal to us, they are going to be so overwhelmed when they come here and they realize they can walk down a street when every they want. They have a house, they have beds, they have a big kitchen table they can all sit around.”
Chambers says the refugee committee is ready for the family’s arrival but if members of the community want to help they can contribute gift cards for the local grocery store or drug store.