City Welcomes 100 Refugees Friday!
Bryan Schlosser/Regina Leader-Post
Four-year-old Heam Alarajan, right, accepts a drawing from Juliette Dumont, also four, who was at the Regina International Airport Friday to help welcome about 35 of the 100 Syrian refugees who arrived throughout the day.
9 Jan 2016 Austin M. Davis, Natascia Lypny/Regina Leader-Post
Even though it was cold, a Syrian refugee said she could feel the warmth of love when she arrived at the Regina International Airport on Friday night.
Majda and three of her children were part of a group of about 35 Syrian refugees who landed in their new home. A total of about 100 Syrian refugees were expected to arrive throughout the day.
Regina is to receive 348 government and privately-sponsored refugees by the end of February.
Through a translator, Majda said she came to Canada seeking peace and a future for her kids.
“We’re so happy to find another home and people who love us,” Majda said.
Her joy of arriving in Regina — after fleeing her home three years ago — was tempered when she began to speak of her 20-year-old son, who is still in Syria. She hopes he will be able to join his family as they start their new lives.
“People there are hungry. They have no water, no food, no electricity, no homes,” she said of the conditions in Syria.
“They don’t have any milk. There’s no formula, no medication and no medical assistance at all.”
Abrahem Sifran, a 16-year-old who wants to become an engineer or a doctor, repeatedly thanked Canada for letting him and his family into the country.
“I thought about (Canada) as it is right now and it’s much better even,” Sifran said as young newcomers slept on the bench behind him.
As the newcomers waited to leave the airport after a long journey, a mother held her young daughter on her lap, drinking water out of a Tim Hortons cup. A Regina girl handed a homemade drawing to a Syrian girl as the adults around them smiled. A plush moose dressed as a Mountie fascinated other Syrian kids.
The airport has been busy with similar scenes of warm welcomes since the first Syrian refugees, a family of three, arrived Dec. 21. Over the holidays, 65 more Syrians landed, representing 12 families.
“Everything’s been running very smoothly,” Darcy Dietrich, Regina Open Door Society (RODS) executive director, said of the settlement process thus far.
All but one family has already moved into permanent accommodations. That swift transition is thanks to landlords stepping up, said RODS manager of settlement and family services Getachew Woldeyesus. The organization has 300 leads on potential housing. Some landlords have even furnished places for the refugees.
Many of the newcomers already have bank accounts, have applied for health cards, and a few children are receiving their school orientation. They are able to pick up clothing — 31,000 pounds were donated — and household items at the Salvation Army.
RODS has also been swarmed by eager volunteers: 240 of them. Woldeyesus said this is the best way for Reginans to show their support for refugees.
“As much as we love to see people at the airport, that’s not the best place to welcome the newcomers,” he said.
The organization has privacy and security concerns, as well as wanting to avoid the refugees getting overwhelmed.
Mayor Michael Fougere was at the airport to welcome the newcomers with blankets. He believes the arrival of close to 350 Syrian refugees in Regina will make the city stronger.
“We’re going to learn from these people. They have their shared experiences and as they begin to set up their life here, find work, go to school and do everything that we do here, we’re going to be all the better for that,” Fougere said.
Saskatchewan is still preparing to receive about 850 Syrian refugees. Mark Docherty, minister of parks, culture and sport, said the provincial government is preparing for what it has been told.
“If there’s more, we know full well that this province can accommodate refugees, we have historically for generations. If there’s a few more, we can meet that number,” Docherty said.