Syrian family of 6 eager to start new life in Winnipeg

January will be a challenging month spent trying to get used to Winnipeg's cold climate for many newly landed families of refugees.

'The people of Canada are very kind, friendly,' Salam Alsobihi says

Salam Alsobihi and his family are among numerous Syrian refugees who are getting settled in Winnipeg. 2:20
January will be a challenging month spent trying to get used to Winnipeg's cold climate for many newly landed refugees.
The Alsobihi family immigrated to Canada and is settling in Winnipeg. They were forced to leave Syria about three years ago and would spend the next few years as refugees in Jordan. (Erin Brohman/CBC)

Several families of Syrian refugees arrived in Manitoba in December and over the holidays, the Alsobihi family among them. They spoke to CBC News Sunday through a translator.

The Alsobihis spent three years as refugees in Jordan before making their way to Canada. Prior to that, they lost everything in Syria, where their home and belongings were destroyed.

"Once I [reached] the Syrian-Jordanian borders, I felt that I actually left the country only with my body. My soul, my spirit has been left behind," 27-year-old Salam Alsobihi said, adding she couldn't bear to let her kids continue to live under such violent circumstances.

"A day before I left it was a fire exchange that got heavier and heavier and the fighting got worse and worse," Salam said. "Without any hesitation and further thinking, I grabbed my family and left."

The kind smiles we've been receiving gives us optimism.- Salam Alsobihi

When they learned they would be settling in Canada, Salam said she wasn't sure what to expect.

"I was glad and happy, but at the same time I wasn't sure what I'm getting myself into, going into an unknown world and I don't know what is awaiting me," she said.

Now that they're here, Salam said she is happy her four children get to start a new life in Winnipeg.

"The kind smiles we've been receiving gives us optimism, that is how we feel about it," Salam said.

"The people of Canada are very kind, friendly. Their systems, their norms of doing things, so far my experience has been very, very positive."

Thirty-one-year-old Wael Alsobihi, Salam's husband, said one of his biggest priorities is to learn English.

"My immediate goal is to learn the language, education for my kids, and find an honourable source of living or work to support my family," he said, adding people they've met in Winnipeg have given them a warm welcome.

"How people treat each other, the treatment is very kind and respectful," he said.

Both parents say their four kids are adjusting to life in Winnipeg and excited to start going to school.

"I love it," 10-year-old Malak said on her thoughts of Canada.

Her sister Sondos is eager to learn English and wants to become a doctor. Meanwhile, 2½-year-old Hamza said he loves snow and is happy to be in Canada.

The Alsobihi kids will start a bridge program next week meant to help them transition into Manitoba's school system. Welcome Place, an inter-faith organization that helps refugees adjust to life in Manitoba, is helping the family get settled.

The organization hopes to secure permanent housing for the Alsobihi family within the next week.

With files from CBC's Erin Brohman


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