Walking into the lobby of the airport hotel felt a little surreal as groups of recently arrived Syrian refugees were sitting and standing together, talking about the uncertainty of their future in Canada. There was a table set-up so that we could let the ‘system’ know we were ready to pick up the family. We were told they were unaware we were coming, and would take a few minutes to get ready. In the meantime, this small group of Canadians was approached by several people who were looking for information. One man approached and said “I’m told I’m going to Kitchener, is this place good?” Another woman who had been there for four days asked if we could help get her phone connected to the hotels complimentary wifi. The kids had their ‘Welcome to Canada’ signs ready, and we waited, speaking with the brave individuals who approached us asking for answers to some of their pressing questions about Canada.
Finally, this family of 4 (Father, Mother, and two young sons) came out of the elevators, we had a very quick introduction, and we helped them pull all of their possessions (three suitcases), through the snow and into the minivan. They seemed at peace, quiet, accepting whatever short-term future these strangers were about to bestow upon them. It wasn’t a particularly emotionally charged moment, if only because the family was very unsure about what was happening. The information they had been given was minimal. They weren’t sure where they were going, or who exactly these people were.
What their initial thoughts on Canada are, is a mystery. It’s not a great day for weather, and Mississauga isn’t exactly known as one of the most beautiful places we have to offer, but we pointed the minivan towards Guelph. The two young boys slept as the parents tried their best to communicate with us via our friend Nuhad, who was acting as translator for this first interaction. Upon arriving at their apartment in Guelph, they seemed a bit overwhelmed, and it might be projection, but we seemed to sense a bit of relief that they had a warm house to themselves, with beds, blankets, a pantry full of food, plenty of clothing, and a teapot. The first thing they wanted to do in this new home was an act of hospitality, offering everyone tea. The mother of this family knows a little english, and before we left she managed to tell us: “We’re so happy!”
We’re excited about the days and weeks ahead, and will surely share more as we can about these kind people. We haven’t posted a picture of them as we have yet to see if they are comfortable with their pictures being broadcast. Once again, we thank you for your help to make this possible. There is a lot to come, and updates should be a bit more forthcoming now that the team is ramped up and working to make their first weeks and months memorable in the best possible ways.