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Refugee support group in Corner Brook ready for two more families


As the Corner Brook Refugee Support Group waits to welcome two more Syrian refugee families, the first one continues to adjust to life in their new home.

GERALDINE BROPHY/THE WESTERN STAR
Ivan Emke brings a group of about 20 people up to date on the progress and what still needs to be done to bring a Syrian refugee family to the area.

Mohammad al Homsi, his wife Faten Fouad al Shahadat, and their children, Khaled al Homsi, 9, and Jamila al Homsi, 8 arrived in the city at the end of December.

Since that time, Ivan Emke, a member of the Corner Brook Refugee Support Group that brought the family in, said there have been many challenges for the family.

“Some of those we can’t help with because that’s something that all refugees, all immigrants who come to another country, will have to deal with.”

He said in the beginning it is almost like a honeymoon phase, but then there’s a reality check.

Emke said they can’t go to see sick family as travel is hindered until they become Canadian citizens and even then it’s unlikely Lebanon or Syria would let them back in.

Learning English can be hard, especially for the adults. But as their English improves the integration becomes easier.

But the integration can make holding onto their past difficult, like when it comes to marking cultural traditions like Ramadan.

Despite the challenge, he said, the al Homsi family was able to mark the month of Ramadan.

In a place like St. John’s, where there are more than 130 Syrian refugees, Emke said there is a network they can draw on that isn’t found here but that will change as the two other families and at least two more sponsored by other groups in the city arrive.

For the al Homsi family the second family will not just be more people who share the same experiences, but people they already know.

Emke said the family has all their relevant passes and the subcommittee of the group sponsoring them has the house they will live in ready.

“They’re waiting for the final word, which we expect it at any moment.”

But he added it was also expected at any moment a month ago.

The process, he said, has been very different from when the al Homsi family was placed among the first wave of refugees to come to the country.

Now, he said, with so many here in the country the process has slowed somewhat.

The role of the supporters is to help the family and provide for their needs during their first year here. After that Emke said it’s not known if they will stay or move on.

And while their experiences may differ on some levels one common message the refugees always share is how pleased they are to have received the welcome they did.

“That they were allowed safety to live in Canada," Emke said. "They are very pleased that they have been given this chance.”

 

*** Edited to remove ID of family July 25 ***

 

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