Update on the Second Family
Happily, members of the second family we are sponsoring have started to arrive. Nikola, the oldest son, arrived on February 24. He came to church that first weekend and we were able to introduce him to many in the congregation. His brother Wasem (pronounced with a long e: Waseem in English or Wasim in French) arrived on the night of March 8. Their parents are still awaiting their travel instructions in Lebanon and we hope to welcome them soon. (Once they all arrive, I will start referring to them by their family name.)
The housing team and the gifts-in-kind team did a tremendous job finding a lovely two-bedroom apartment in NDG for them. The apartment is now fully furnished, including new beds that were donated by the bedding company Casper. Both young men have been outfitted for the cold — including a last-minute emergency call for gloves. They are slowly starting to adjust to the temperature here.
Both brothers have initiated the process to register for the government French immersion program. The finance and job training teams will help with their integration, and the health team will be helping them get their RAMQ cards.
Update on the Al Mohammads
Our education and health teams have been incredibly on top of things, as they help Omar, Salwa and their seven children get acclimated. Everyone now has a health card and all the children are in school. Everyone is adjusting well, even with many communications from the schools to be deciphered. Our translators have been fantastic and very generous with their time.
The two oldest children and their father have begun their French immersion programs. Salwa,
mother of the family, will begin her program at the end of April. We were able to make a case with the Ministry of Immigration to change her original assignment so that she could be closer to home in order to have enough time to prepare the children for school and get her youngest son to day care, hence the delay of her start. I am especially grateful to the people in Minister Kathleen Weil’s office who have been incredibly helpful.
The two oldest children are also taking an evening course in English. They are very motivated to succeed here in both national languages. The oldest son has also started playing soccer, his passion, and we’ve found a source for getting him a bicycle so he can get to practices more easily.
Thanks to a contact through MP Marc Garneau’s office, the family was offered a gift of summer camp — a whole summer for free! All the children age 4-15 will go to camp, and the older children will most likely be able to volunteer. The French immersion programs take a break in July and
August, so this will be good way to keep everyone busy.
The family is also being visited on Saturdays by a student from Concordia who is working on a
design project that will focus on creating either a cookbook of family recipes or a game for the
children. The family is most appreciative of the attention, especially to the children.
A Very Significant Goodbye
Marlean Martin, our fearless refugee sponsorship task force chair, has decided to step down in
order to focus on family needs. Marlean was our true hero on the task force. Way back before this whole process started, Marlean approached me to say that she really wanted to make sure a refugee sponsorship program was implemented at the church. She didn’t balk when I asked her to spearhead the team. If it hadn’t been for her willingness to step into that role, we might never have gotten things off the ground.
If you know Marlean, you know how humble she is. She never wanted to take centre stage, but her quiet, constant efforts behind the scenes kept us all on track. We absolutely could not have done this without her. Thankfully, Leah Garfield-Wright joined the task force this winter. With Leah and the rest of the team still on board, Marlean says that she feels she is leaving things in good hands. David, John, Leah and I will really miss working with her. So much of this project’s success is due to her. Thank you, Marlean!
Thank you to all! I don’t think I could ever thank all our volunteers enough. I generally refrain from naming specific people in these messages because I don’t want to inadvertently miss anyone. Some of you are working overtime, and you know who you are. I hope you know that you are loved and truly appreciated. Everyone has given so much time, gifts and money. I also know the returns have been great for us all. As one person recently wrote to me, just before Wasem arrived:
"I cannot tell you how much this experience has enriched our lives. As anyone who has met Nikola or the Al Mohammads knows, they are very special people. Together we have all created a microcosm of pure goodness."
I agree wholeheartedly. The experience with both families has enriched our lives amazingly. I have constantly said that we need to remember that we are sponsoring these families and not adopting them. This is still true — and I so appreciate how careful everyone has been to respect boundaries and to honour the wishes and needs of each family. Yet, truth be told, many of us have started to feel “adopted” by the Al Mohammads as they welcome us into their home and into their hearts. I won’t be surprised if the same happens with Nikola and Wasem’s family.
- Rev Diane Rollert
Refugee Task Force—Rev. Diane Rollert, David Rollert, John Inder, Leah Garfield-Wright