Syrian refugee family arrives in Corner Brook
Corner Brook welcomed a family of Syrian refugees early Monday morning as they stepped off the plane to begin their new life in Newfoundland and Labrador.
About 25 people greeted the Syrian family at the Deer Lake Airport at 1:30 a.m., some holding welcome signs in Arabic.
A translator helped with communication, as the welcoming committee made introductions and helped the family get their luggage.
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"There was a lot of curiosity," said Ivan Emke, a member of the volunteer committee that has been working to sponsor the refugee family.
"We were just very curious about them and how much English they might know and so on, and I'm sure they were incredibly curious about us, because they really didn't even know if somebody would be at the airport to greet them."
The family — a mother, father and two children, age eight and nine — had been living in a refugee camp in Lebanon after being displaced from their hometown in rural Syria.
The Syrian Refugee Support Group in Corner Brook has been working on bringing the family to the province since mid-fall, raising roughly $30,000 to get them settled.
Becoming more comfortable with time
Members of the group shook hands with the family when they got off the plane, helped them find their luggage and brought them to their new, fully-furnished home.
Little by little, Emke said, the family started to appear more comfortable.
"They slowly got a sense that they were being cared for and looked after and these people were there to help them and provide for them," said Emke.
"You could just tell the spirits were brightening and this kind of sense that this was a place where they would be able to settle and actually get to rest for a period of time."
They slowly got a sense that they were being cared for and looked after and these people were there to help them.- Ivan Emke
Emke said the people of Corner Brook have a lot of questions for the refugee family, but added they don't want to be too intrusive.
"There's an incredible amount of emotion I think that they have. They said a little bit about their background, but that's something that will come out over the weeks and months to come as they become more comfortable with who we are," he said.
"We are basically strangers who are the ones that they need to rely on," Emke added.
"I can't hardly imagine what it would be like to travel for several days, live for several years before that travel, go to a place, meet somebody you'd never seen before and then have total faith and trust in them."
Sponsorship 'therapeutic' for Corner Brook
Emke said the two children have been going to school while at the refugee camp in Lebanon and are excited to begin learning some English now that they've arrived in Canada.
He's eager to see how the family will grow and develop while in the Corner Brook community, which Emke said has been overwhelmingly supportive.
"People are doing this for the family clearly, but they're also finding value in it for themselves," he said.
"There's a real kind of helplessness when you want to do something about a situation that's taking place either near or far, and you don't feel that there's anything you can do about it.
"And the fact that we were actually involved in bringing in a family and the mechanics of all of that and setting up a house is I think, in a way, therapeutic."