British Columbia

Haida Gwaii welcomes first Syrian refugee family

Enes and Magdalena, a young couple originally from Aleppo, arrived at their new home in Sandspit on June 29th.

'Overall it was a huge relief to hear they were finally on their way': Operation Refugees Haida Gwaii

Enes and Magdalena, middle, have been living in Turkey for the past year and a half. (Heron Weir/Facebook)

The first of two Syrian refugee families expected to settle on Haida Gwaii has arrived at their new home.

After months of hard work and preparation Laura Pattison welcomed Enes and Magdalena Said, a young couple originally from Aleppo, to their new home in Sandspit on June 29.

"It was a bit of a shock because we got only 6 days of notice, so we certainly felt the pressure to scramble around and get everything prepared for them," said Pattison, in an interview with CBC Radio's Daybreak North.

Pattison has been heading up the effort with a group called Operation Refugees Haida Gwaii, who will take responsibility for helping the family settle into their new home.

"Overall it was a huge relief to hear they were finally on their way."

Pattison says aside from getting the young couple settled, the group will be working to get English language training for the Said's.

"It is quite a small community, so we're relying on volunteers to do some ESL tutoring," she said.

Adjusting to a smaller community

Pattison also said she is aware that the couple may find it challenging to adjust to life in a community like Sandspit, coming from an urban area like Aleppo.

She said residents in the community are going to do everything they can to show them their hospitality.

"To be honest, we don't know if they'll stay here long term," said Pattison.

"We do understand they have family elsewhere in Canada as well ... but wherever they end up we just really want to see them started on the path to a new life here."

The Said's are one of two families being sponsored by the group. The second is a family of eight who will be moving to a house in Queen Charlotte City.

With files from Jane Armstrong and Ash Kelly