In early 2016 Parish Council approved the sponsorship of “a Syrian refugee family”. The Refugee Resettlement Committee was formed and parishioners quickly responded to the news of a sponsorship with financial contributions (almost $33000). Soon the parish had a couple of grainy photos and the names of the Maher family: Naim, Fadia, May and Mayar.
Parishioners donated furniture, houshold items and their time. The family was eagerly awaited and met with joy at the airport on October 17, 2016. For five weeks the Mahers stayed in Barrhaven with Diala, Naim's sister and her famly until their own Springland apartment was ready. Very quickly the Mahers became part of the Holy Cross community.
Committee members got to work on the very necessary “First Steps”: OHIP enrolment, Permanent Residency cards, a bank account, OC Transpo routes and Presto cards, ESL registration for the parents, school registration for the children, a dentist (a parishioner volunteered his services) and a family doctor.
Along with these steps we waded through the more frustration-inducing tasks such as TV/internet packages and cell phone plans. But in addition there were the more pleasurable tasks such as a city tour, grocery shopping at Food Basics, Independent, Produce Depot, Saint Vincent de Paul, Value Village, etc., and walking May and Mayar to Holy Cross school, singing as we went. The favorite verse was “The babies on the bus go wah!, wah!, wah!”
We enjoyed many outings with the family including Winterlude, a trip with NCC to Gatineau Park on the coldest day of the year, the December parade to see ”Baba Noel” (a.k.a. Santa), the Vanier sugarbush in spring, swimming lessons for the kids, canoeing the mighty Rideau at Mooney's Bay, viewing Hogs Back in full flood and a week long summer day camp for the children.
Thanks to parishoners' donations there were bicycles for all four family members. We provided them all with helmets and encouraged them to “just do it”. It was amazing to see how quickly the children caught on with only a few trivial tip-overs. Soon they were confident enough to go with us on Colonel By Driveway for Sunday bike day and to take their bikes back and forth to Holy Cross school. By the way, not once during the year was there need for a trip to the ER; not all parents of younger kids can claim to have been that fortunate.
Fadia and Naim continue with ESL classes, having progressed from level 1/2 to 3/4. May, now age 10 and in Grade 5, and Mayar, 7 and in Grade 2, are doing well both socially and academically at school.
The family has been so very appreciative of the support of the parish. They mention that to us over and over again. The family has been giving back in actions as well as words. Fadia and Naim invited committee members to their apartment for a wonderful Syrian supper on two different occasions. Fadia has joined the parish Hospitality Committee. For our part we are grateful that such a wonderful family has landed in our lap.
As a painter by trade, Naim did a number of painting jobs around the parish and it was difficult to get him to accept any payment. Naim has had a number of contracts with a painting company. In addition he has a Business Licence and WSIB numbers.
Now that our sponsorship year has ended, the family is into what is called “Month 13”, the transition from Holy Cross support to providing for themselves, assisted as need be with limited government support.
Thank you to everyone in the parish for your generous contributions, prayers and continuing interest.