PEI

Summerside officially welcomes Syrian refugee families

Two Syrian refugee families received the official welcome to the city they now call home. The City of Summerside held a meet and greet for the families at city hall Tuesday.

Syrian families thankful for support from sponsor, city officials and community

The Aldos and Risha families receive an official welcome to Summerside. (CBC)

Two Syrian refugee families received the official welcome to the new city they are calling home.

The City of Summerside held a meet and greet for the families at city hall Tuesday.

"This is a wonderful opportunity to increase our cultural mosaic in the city of Summerside. It's important that we learn something from these people, and hopefully they can learn something from us," said Deputy Mayor Brent Gallant.

The Aldos and Risha families came to Summerside through a blended sponsorship that sees support from the community groups that have sponsored them and the federal government.

Everyone knows the island needs new people. We need diversity, and we need people that want to be here- Rev. Andrew Richardson

While they have only been here a short time, the families are feeling right at home.

"Thankfully we have not met any difficulties because of the group supporting us. They're almost holding us on their palms and guiding us through," said Madyan Aldos through a translator.

Aldos and his wife and four children arrived in Summerside three weeks ago while Yahya Risha, his wife and four children arrived 10 days ago.

Summerside police Chief Dave Poirier shares his hat with Yahya Risha at the city's official welcome for the new Syrian families. (CBC)
Risha says he is happy to be here.

"Any place that will help us as we are being helped, we're comfortable. And we are very thankful again to all the people," Risha said through a translator.

Two church led groups have sponsored the families and volunteers have been helping get them settled.

Rev. Andrew Richardson of the Trinity United Church says they have encountered some challenges but are working to overcome them.

"Public transit is an issue, so we have a series of drivers to drive them around initially. They'll make their way as they're able to," said Richardson.

The volunteers will also help accommodate their religious beliefs.

"These are devout Muslims. They're used to praying in a Mosque on a Friday, and there's no Mosque here. We're going to take them down to the Mosque on Friday, in Charlottetown, and make some connections there for them," said Richardson.

More families soon to arrive

Both families are looking forward to having more Syrian families settle in the area. There is another family arriving in Summerside soon. Other groups are working to bring refugees to Kensington, Bedeque, and Tyne Valley.

Madyan Aldos looks on as two of his children enjoy the food served at the meet and greet held in their honour at Summerside City Hall. (CBC)
Richardson says having the families here is a a great thing for the island.  

"Everyone knows the island needs new people. We need diversity, and we need people that want to be here.  And this is one way we can do both things.

For them to arrive here, they speak no English. Customs are different. Religion is different. Everything is a struggle. But they're remarkably, resilient, especially the little ones."

Aldos said he is thankful for everything that is being done for them.

"The greatest factor is the people. They are supporting us both materially and mentally. And that we thank them a lot."

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