To say Siham Abu Sitta is thrilled to be in Canada is an understatement.
As the newcomer will admit herself, there are no words — Arabic or English — to accurately describe her joy.
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Like most Syrian refugees, her arrival here was fraught with stress, frustration and extreme danger. She came to Toronto in December from Lebanon, where she was living illegally in Beirut with her twin daughters Joudy and Jana. Abu Sitta was a refugee who fled Syria after her husband was shot and killed in January 2013.
Fairlawn Avenue United, a Toronto church, sponsored the family, but for various reasons, the process was held up for many months.
Rev. Christopher White, a senior minister of that church, was personally involved in bringing Abu Sitta to Toronto, and met her for the first time when she and her daughters arrived in Canada in late December.
Now that she is here, the hard work of resettlement has begun.
"It has been so busy and beautiful at the same time," she told Metro Morning. "I met my family," she said, referring to the members of the church.
"I am proud of them. I love them all so much."
She began her English classes within the first two weeks of arrival. She had been studying English in Lebanon early in 2015, when all she could say is "yes" and "no".
'They are so happy'
Within weeks of her arrival, Abu Sitta learned how to navigate the supermarket and how to use the subway. She enrolled her daughters in school recently.
"They are so happy. They are enthusiastic about everything around them," she said, noting that the twin girls understand only half of what is said in class.
"In my opinion, they will be so good by the end of the year."
Rev. White is also enthusiastic about the arrival of the family — which he agreed was like his family now.
Teary-eyed whenever he speaks about Abu Sitta and her young family, he said he is realistic about her new life here. They will face challenges, he said, adding that any time you make a move like this, there's a huge period of acclimatization, like finding work, friends and all that goes into a completely new life.
He said when the family arrived he thought of Liberal cabinet minister Maryam Monsef, who came to this country as a refugee. He said he foresaw similarly successful lives in Canada for the twin girls.
"By doing this we are enriching our own country," said White.
He also said the process had a huge benefit for his church and himself. "This is probably the best thing I've ever done in my life," he said.
Abu Sitta said although she has only just started to settle in the city, she is thrilled with it. She said she is so thrilled, she doesn't even notice the cold temperatures.
Everywhere she goes in the city, she said she feels the urge to yell out, "We are here!"
"I feel so comfortable, so happy to be here in Canada," she said.