A young refugee family from war-torn Syria have found a peaceful home in Aldergrove, thanks to a small church congregation.
The 50-member Aldergrove Vineyard Church has sponsored the Syrian couple and their three small children under the federal resettlement program, with the assistance of the Mennonite Central Committee in Abbotsford.
About 20 of the church members were on hand to greet the family at Vancouver Airport two Fridays ago. The family, which had been living in Lebanon for the past four or so years, includes three boys aged four, six and eight.
“It was a very joyful event and the family is so happy to be here,” says Danise Randall Breederland, whose family is temporarily sharing their rural Aldergrove house with the refugee family while the finishing touches are put on the family’s basement suite in Abbotsford.
“The family had applied to the UN two years ago and finally were accepted by Canada,” said Breederland.
“They don’t speak any English but we had an interpreter on hand to introduce us as they came through the gate. All they had was two bags between them, nothing else.”
The family was among a group of about 30 refugees who flew directly from Amman, Jordan to Montreal, where their documents were processed before transferring to a Vancouver-bound flight. Most of the group were government-sponsored, which meant they had no private sponsors to greet them at the airport, and were transported to temporary lodgings such as the Sandman in Surrey.
Breederland said she was touched by the actions of a passerby couple who noted the family’s dress and asked the church members if the family were refugees.
“When we said yes, they called out ‘Welcome to Canada’ and pressed a hundred dollars into our hands and told us to buy them something nice. That’s the heart of Canadians.”
Church pastors Joe and Charmaine Kelder believe that the commitment by the church to support and guide the family through their resettlement in Canada is a calling which must be heeded.
Under the “blended visa office refugees” program, the federal government provides $1,400 a month for six months for a family of five, and the sponsors provide the rest. The sponsors provide housing, food, clothing and assistance in setting up bank accounts and medical coverage — altogether a $30,000 commitment from the small Aldergrve church congregation.
“It’s what we’re called to do,” said Charmaine. “From a faith-based perspective, God makes the resources available.”
The family has been settling in and have been helped to connect with resources such as Abbotsford Community Services, schools for the children, as well as ESL classes and job placement.
Breederland also took the family to the Middle Eastern Friendship Centre in Surrey on Thursday just to have some social connections with others who speak Arabic.
“It’s a nice resource, with books, food, potluck dinners, and then after that we went grocery shopping and had dinner with the family,” said Breederland.
“I use a Google translation app to converse with them but I’m not sure it is always right; I wonder perhaps if perhaps they speak an Arabic dialect?”
“It’s a huge learning curve for us, quite an adventure,” says Charmaine. “We’re delighted and stretched, but it’s a huge privilege for us to do this.”