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Sponsorship families celebrate first year in Canada

December 23, 2016   ·   0 Comments

By Marni Walsh

It was one year ago on December 14 that the first of Syrian refugee families in Dufferin County, the Al Haj Alis, arrived to become Canadian citizens.

Syrian families landing at Pearson airport early in December 2015 were welcomed with warm winter coats by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau representing the good will of the nation. Now, over 25,000 Syrians escaping their war-torn country have found a new home in Canada.

“This is who we are,” Kathleen Wynne told reporters last December.

Since that time, Canadians across the country have shown the world our best side – our humanity as a nation of peacekeepers.

Dufferin citizens and church groups worked together to sponsor the refugee families, mobilize the community, and set up resources. This included The Headwaters’ Sponsorship Group and Westminster Church in Orangeville, sponsors for the Ali Haj Ali family.

They have “done extremely well,” says lead sponsor Brian Logel. The father, “Emad has been employed full time for three months now, so his health benefits will soon kick in. One year later, the family is financially independent.”

The anxiously anticipated arrival of Emad’s brother under the sponsorship of Project Save Haven has been cause for celebration. Awad and Asma Ali Haj Ali finally arrived with their four children Adnan age ten, Obadah age eight, Obaydah age six and Abeer just three years old, earlier this year.

Mr. Logel says private sponsorship is the best means to successful resettlement. He says government sponsored families in the area are struggling without the support of a private, local sponsorship team. Private sponsors are able to support and guide their families financially and socially by helping them to navigate the many challenges of living in a new country.

Mr. Logel credits the Liberals for sponsoring families, but says the government does not have the man-power to help the families on a day to day basis.

“We feel our families will integrate faster and become independent faster,” he says, noting that ESL training is the key to integration.

Unfortunately, ESL services are not available in small centres like Orangeville and Shelburne. Sponsors, along with community service groups have had to organize to transport families to Brampton where there are a wide variety of immersion courses at individual levels running every day.

Mr. Logel says the community is to be “commended for welcoming and supporting the new families with donations of money, items and their time.”

About 50 people attended the Headwaters Refugee Sponsorship Committee’s one year celebration for the Al Haj Ali family on Saturday at Westminster United Church in Orangeville. Razan Al Haj Ali composed and delivered a thank you speech for the Westminster gathering “in excellent English,” says Mr. Logel and presented the Westminster Church Community with an Arabic blessing and thank you plaque.



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