More than six months have passed since the Syrian Refugee Committee of Mississippi Mills (SRCMM) was formed. For the many volunteers that have worked so hard to sponsor and settle our two new families, it has been an intensely formative time. Relationships have been built and friendships have been carved. There have also been some tense times and deeply reflective moments. But always we remind ourselves that the focus of our efforts is on the families we seek to sponsor and re-settle within our caring community.
While sponsorship processes continue to churn along outside the direct control of our two groups who are still waiting to welcome their families, the hopes and expectations continue to stay strong. And all the while lessons are being learned and shared to increase the capacity of the teams.
The SRCMM-ESL sessions were launched last week and a “circle” of support is coalescing around our four students. Imagine the frustration of having no English communication capability on arriving in our town, and then the emerging joy of being able to say “hello, how are you?” within a few days.
This week we learned that the Civitan Club of Almonte donated $6,500 to the SRCMM! What an amazing feat! And donations continue to come in from the Harp Concert at St. Andrews United, Pakenham ($475) and fundraising by Rising Sun Yoga ($1300). The overwhelming generosity is also marked by innumerable acts of kindness by so many people. In particular, I’d like to mention Sanaa Nassir of Appleton, who has been an invaluable and personal link for our families during this initial transition.
In the coming weeks and months the SRCMM will no doubt be transitioning from a high-intensity plateau, to a more contemplative, supportive and integrative role focused around collectively sustaining the new families in their new home. Connections to surrounding Syrian families will grow in importance. Affordable accommodation continues to be a challenge. ESL beyond September will need to be reviewed. Commuting, shopping and job-hunting will be re-visited. And the logistical support around furniture, furnishings and clothing may need to be downscaled. It all makes me wonder if, perhaps, our name should change to the “Sponsorship and Resettlement Council of Mississippi Mills” to more correctly represent the changing mission.
In the meantime let’s continue to celebrate the dedication, hard work and success of our constituent groups. Read on…
Arnie Francis, Chair Syrian Refugee Committee of Mississippi Mills
ABC Welcome Group
News Update March 18, 2016 for the Millstone
ABC Welcome Group is made up of unaffiliated residents working with the Almonte Presbyterian Church. On February 11, 2016 we finally met the Mustafa family at the Ottawa airport – father Radwan, mother Amal and children Ayah (5) and Ahmad (3) and began the process of helping to settle them in Mississippi Mills.
It hardly seems only a few weeks ago, as so much has happened since then. After a week staying with group members, they moved into their own new rental home on Carss Street. We worked diligently to prepare the house, move in furniture and other household goods, and stock the kitchen with basic supplies. We have also organized phones, cable and Internet, enrolled the family in a number of government programs and for school, dentists, doctors and children’s activities. They have been involved in a number of social activities including visits to local restaurants owned by Arabic speakers, to Mt. Pakenham for tubing, the Mid-Eastern Store in Ottawa and others in the local area, as well as group dinners. This week they started English lessons provided by a group of dedicated volunteers, and group members have also assisted to supplement these at other times.
We have been extremely fortunate to have the Mustafas, who already feel like members of our own extended families, as well as the dedicated assistance of principal translator and new friend, Sanaa Nassir. There seems to be a lot to do every day, but we have moved beyond the initial orientation and settling in to beginning a more regular routine. The focus is now on Radwan and Amal learning English, having Ayah adapt to her new school, and Ahmad to child care.
Like most of us, although even more so, they are all enjoying watching the weather warm up so they can get out and about more easily and we hope to have bikes for all of them in the next week or so. We are actively looking for a children’s bike for Ayah: 5-6 year old size and a 4 year-old size bike for the summer for Ahmad. If you have one to donate or lend for the season please let us know.
We have also learned that our application to privately sponsor another Syrian couple who are in Turkey has been approved and the paperwork has gone to Ankara for the next steps in processing (interviews, security and medical checks etc.). We hope they will be able to join us here within the next few months.
Members of our group would be happy to share experiences and tips with the other sponsoring groups. One thing we have found is that the family has been grateful for regular, daily check-ins as they get used to being so far from family and home. Also we continue to be grateful to members of the community for all of their support and the friendly greetings encountered everywhere we go with the Mustafa family.
Greg Smith, ABC Welcome
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