Altona holds community dinner for Syrian refugee families
'They made us feel we are [from] the same family,' Syrian refugee says of new community
People in Altona, Man., joined at Seeds Church Friday night to chow down with newcomers and let them know they are an important part of the southern Manitoba community.
More than 45 families from war-torn Syria have settled in the town since November 2015. Many of the refugees were sponsored by local church groups.
Altona Mayor Melvin Klassen said the town has an intimate historical connection to immigration and the desire to start a new life abroad.
Many in Altona are descendants of Russian and German Mennonite families that moved to Manitoba between the 1870s and 1920s, he said.
For many in the community, making newcomers feel at home is about acknowledging their own family origins on the Prairies, and extending the same openness their families received decades ago to the new wave of refugees and immigrants, Klassen said.
"They're saying 'It's payback time,'" Klassen said. "We need to do that for others right now."
Khaldeye Daas is one of the recent arrivals. She said she has been welcomed with open arms by her new community.
"The people here, they made us feel we are [from] the same family," she said. "This is your home, they say."
Abdo Haman said he is thankful to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada for helping he and other refugees start life anew.
"I am very happy I am here," he said.
The community dinner was a joint venture between the town of Altona and the Build a Village sponsorship group at Seeds Church.