The whole gamut of emotions that surround the Syrian refugee situation played out over a wild 24-hour period for members of a Cadboro Bay church last week.
Just hours after learning the family of refugees they had sponsored wouldn’t be coming to Canada, members of St. George’s Anglican Church were at the airport greeting another family of six fleeing their war-torn home in Syria.
Jennifer Handley, co-chair of St. George’s refugee steering committee, said they were informed by the Diocese of British Columbia last week that the family of six that the church had sponsored had not met all the admissibility requirements to come into Canada.
“That was a bit of a shock to everyone,” said Handley. “It could have been security, it could have been medical, it could have been something else we’re not aware of.”
But the same email from the diocese also brought word of another family that was arriving in Victoria that night. Complications had developed with the family’s sponsorship in Calgary and they would be reuniting with extended family in Victoria but had nowhere to stay.
“Our immediate response was to say of course we would be willing to provide accommodation,” said Handley. “We had this great apartment that was ready to go, it even had some food in it.”
Handley was among a delegation from the church to greet the family – Raed, Natasha and their four children aged two to 17 – at the airport along with Natasha’s brother who has been in Canada for more than five years.
“It was a very emotional and intensely joyful family reunification that we were witness to,” said Handley.
The family has spent the past two years living in Lebanon after the family’s home in Aleppo, Syria was destroyed by a bomb.
“Natasha, the mother, has a degree in French literature. She taught French in Aleppo where the family lived. The father, Raed, was an administrator at the courthouse,” said Handley.
The family is now living in the three-bedroom apartment the church had rented in Esquimalt, going through the process of completing their intake interviews with a settlement worker and getting the kids into school.
“They are absolutely thrilled, they are just so full of gratitude,” said Handley. “They are feeling safe, welcome and comfortable in this little apartment we’ve provided. The extended family has not been able to contain their joy and appreciation for all that we have been able to do to make this happen and offer the family a new future.”