Sept 2016 - Ecumenical Refugee Project Update:
After 5 months of French classes, our 1st family is now able to get by sufficiently well and thanks to the openness of Mme Louise Ménard and her policy of helping all immigrants at her stores, both Samer & Thaera have jobs at the IGA on Sir Wilfrid Laurier: Samer at the restaurant counter, barbequing chickens, preparing sandwiches, and serving customers, and Thaera in the ‘cut fruit section’. Also, with the help of our volunteers, Samer is practicing driving in the hopes of getting his driver’s license soon.
Our 2nd Syrian family, which arrived on June 1st, began their French classes at the end of August: Mom Lina & 22-yr old daughter, Carol, full-time at level 1, while 24-yr old Christine, whose English & French was already quite excellent, part-time at level 6. In addition, Christine also succeeded in finding herself a part-time job at the Jean Coutu across from Place Longueuil. She aspires to become a veterinarian and is already being mentored by a local St. Lambert vet.
Besides the government French classes, both families now have a French tutor; Ms. Rachel Major, a recently retired professor from Brandon University in Manitoba, where she had been head of the French department.
The 12-yr old boys from both families, Majd & Georges, enjoyed a fun-filled week in Magog at the Scouts summer camp, compliments of Scouts Canada. All 3 children are now at school: 10-yr old Leen in the regular grade 5 class at École Préville, & both boys in the Classe d’Acceuil at Antoine Brossard High School. If all goes well, Majd is hoping to be fluent enough in a few months to transfer to St. Edmond High School so that he can continue pursuing learning violin there. Georges, who spent all summer riding his bike on the streets of St. Lambert, was enchanted by all the activities during the St. Lambert Days Festival and when he got a “hole-in-one” 4 times in the mini putt game, he was so thrilled because, believing he had won 4 bicycles, he wanted to donate them all to the children in our next family, our soon-to-arrive Iraqi family of 7. As it turns out, he had actually only won 4 chances in a draw for one bicycle, and in the end it was someone else’s name that was drawn, but bless his heart of gold!
May 2016- Update:
We have received word that “our” 2nd refugee family will be arriving on Tuesday, May 31st. Thanks to many volunteers, their apartment in the St. Lambert Village is clean & ready; donated furniture has been collected, repaired & scrubbed cleaned, and bedding washed, curtains & drapes sewn & installed, beautifully refurbished appliances purchased & delivered, including a washer & dryer, and the pantry stocked. All it needs now is a family to make it their home.
In the meantime “our” 1st family is settling in nicely & becoming autonomous in getting around. Leen & Majd are among the best in their Classe d'acceuil. Samer & Thaera have passed their 1st 11 weeks of Francisation classes with flying colors & have started session 2 in order to have enough knowledge of French to apply for jobs.
The whole family would like to thank all the volunteers from the different churches who drive them & accompany them to various appointments & activities. A huge thanks also to the community at large for all its support, and in particular to Canadian Tire & the Préville Fine Arts Centre for their generosity in making it possible for Majd to attend Cubs & violin lessons, respectively. We are pleased that Leen too is showing interest in joining the St. Barnabas Cubs. “Our” family is ever so grateful to be here with us and they consider us to be indeed “their” family.
Our Refugee Family has Arrived!
After a long long flight from Beirut, our Syrian refugee family of 4 (mom, petite; dad, 6’ 5”; daughter, 9; and son, 11) finally arrived at Montreal Trudeau airport on Saturday evening, December 12th. “Where’s the snow?” they wanted to know. After several hours of processing, they finally left the airport for St. Lambert, with a small group of volunteers (including a translator) from the committee who has been working for months to welcome them to St. Lambert.
Oecumen Refuge or the Ecumenical Refugee Project was set up 1 ½ years ago, spearheaded by Barry Mack, Pastor of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, and including all the Christian churches in St Lambert, who decided to work together to sponsor a refugee family that otherwise would have no chance of coming to Canada. St Barnabas’ representative on the committee is Michelle Goernert and she was at the airport on Saturday night as part of the welcome committee.
Upon arriving at their new furnished apartment in the middle of the night, after being up for over 24 hours, their faces lit up with huge smiles as they walked through the rooms with wonder. The mother, who was so overcome she kissed Michelle 3 times, was especially taken with the pretty welcoming cards prepared by St Barnabas Sunday School children. They were lined up on a credenza in the living room along with a tiny Christmas tree (the family is Christian) and Michelle said that the cards lent a very “homey atmosphere” to the room. When asked if they felt that anything they might need was missing, they replied, “How could we possibly ask for anything when everything we need is before our eyes!”
On Sunday, despite only a few hours of sleep, the family accepted an invitation to share a pot-luck lunch at St Andrew’s church. They watched St Andrew’s Advent pageant, enjoyed lunch, and the 2 children joined in the children’s games of musical chairs and pass the present. Since there was no translator, communication was entirely by sign language, and this appeared to work very well. The 2 children speak a little French.
On Sunday afternoon, Michelle and her son Thomas paid the family a visit at their apartment. They served her some delicious baklava, which they had brought with them. The young boy was delighted to see someone his own age and he and Thomas played a computer game. Then he asked Thomas to come back the next day and bring his bicycle! Michelle learned that the boy loves soccer and wants a soccer ball for Christmas (Thomas plans to buy it for him), while the little girl is fond of crafts. Michelle told her about our excellent Sunday School program at St Barnabas.
Michelle sums up her experience so far welcoming the refugee family as “very emotional” and describes them as very “elegant” people. We anticipate meeting the family at St Barnabas sometime in the New Year. Meantime, we need to support them in our prayers and in any tangible way that is required. May this truly be a blessed Christmas for them.