By HARLEY DAVIDSON
It’s been a year now since the Faham Katan family arrived in Saint Catharines.
It was two years ago when they decided to flee their home in Aleppo, Syria, for fear of their own safety.
Since then, they’ve developed a whole new lifestyle, started to adapt to Canadian culture and become part of a whole new community which they now call family.
On Jan. 15, I had the opportunity to be a part of a gathering which the Faham Katan family put on to thank their sponsors.
It was a gathering of about 150 people from Tintern Church of Christ (TCOC), Beamsville Church of Christ and another small house-church in Beamsville.
The family cooked more than enough authentic Syrian food for everyone, gave a speech of thanks and accepted stories and well wishes as their self-sustainability in Canada begins.
The room was filled with a sense of both pride and humility, along with an air of relief, as the family steps away from sponsorship.
The family of six, who were sponsored by Tintern Church of Christ, have reached the point where they will try to make things work on their own financially.
When I had the opportunity to speak with some of the members of the church, I was delighted and inspired by the whole experience.
The first meeting for bringing the family over happened a year and a half ago during the Labour Day long weekend, says Jan Taylor, a member of the committee.
After a few committee meetings, the group got in contact with the New Canadians Centre (NCC) and started working on getting a family to Canada.
Earl and Jori Warren, a retired couple from St. Catharines, played a big part in making the arrangements, everything from finding and setting up a house for them before they arrived, to helping them find doctors, registering the children for school, finding them English lessons and communicating with anyone else they needed to. And they don’t speak Arabic.
“It was awesome. They’re the most loving family, and opened our eyes to a lot things with that (Syrian) culture that we would have never ever thought. They’re so kind to each other and to strangers… We were really lucky to have the time, and to be so close to be able to do it.”
Earl says one of the things that hit him hard from the very start was that the first time he saw the family one of the girls just came running towards him and gave him a big kiss.
Jan __, who helped a lot with schooling and medical needs, especially for one of the children who has a disability, said it’s a huge process.
“The financial piece was the very easy piece. The rest of it is all those very tangible things – taking the bus, dentist appointments, doctor connections, education, helping them with English language, shopping, banking, custom merging, all of that stuff.”
She says the committee assigned roles to different people who were comfortable with handling them, and that’s how it all worked out.
The committee sought as much Arabic support as they could. They found an Arabic speaking banker, pharmacist close to them, along with another immigrant who was involved in the committee. They even brought down a team from McMaster University to help teach them how to adapt to certain Canadian customs.
Salina, one of the daughters of the family, says she is excited to be here and to start going to school.
“I want to go to Niagara College,” said Sarina. She says she wants to take business.
She says the biggest change between here and Syria is that it is safe here.
Her favourite Canadian custom? Shopping. She’s fitting in perfectly.
She says she talks to her friends and family back home still, through social media platforms like Facebook and Whatsapp.
The family concluded the night with a slideshow in which they presented the message, “May Canada continue to be the country others can depend on.”
“It’s been wonderful. We feel like family now. They call my husband brother. It’s really, really beautiful,” said another member of the sponsorship committee, Katherine Perry.