The Syrian family arriving in Newfoundland any day now will have lots of friends in Lewisporte, including the 4th Lewisporte Guides.
Rev. Stephanie McClellan of the Lewisporte Refugee Outreach committee visited with the guides last week to provide some background on who the family members are, why they had to leave their homes in Syria and to update them on when the family will be arriving.
The committee has been planning for four family members — mother, father and two children — but just recently it was found out there is also a grandmother. The grandmother was going to be located somewhere else in Canada. But everyone involved wanted to see the family stay together, and the committee members said they would also welcome her with open arms and hearts.
“We said they can’t leave her behind,” McClellan said, asking the Guides, “How important is your Nan to you? You wouldn’t want to leave her behind.”
So she will also be arriving in Lewisporte with the remainder of her family soon. (They had not arrived as of the Pilot deadline on March 4).
The Philadelphia Pentecostal Tabernacle in Lewispoprte has also joined with the committee in hosting a second family, but details of the family and when they will arrive are not available yet.
McClellan taught the girls a greeting in Arabic they could use to address the family which means, “May peace be to you.”
“This is one of the nicest ways to greet new people in Arabic,” she said. “Even if you don’t pronounce it perfectly, they will be pleased that you tried.”
The Guides were interested to know if the children would be attending school, as the boy is seven years old and the girl is nine.
McClellan said the children who will be coming to Lewisporte were only four and two years old when war broke out in their country. They didn’t have the opportunity to go to school, and have been living in a refugee camp in Lebanon.
The family doesn’t speak any English, so the first few months in Canada for all of them will include studying English.
“We need to give them a chance to learn English before they go to school,” she said.
School, where there are bells, fire drills and lock-down practices, might be overwhelming for the children starting off.
“If you came from a war-torn country where a siren signaled bombs and destruction, it might take you awhile to feel safe, even in school,” McClellan said.
McClellan told the guides how Syria was once a beautiful country, and now drone photos of the devastation show that war has destroyed these once beautiful cities and towns.
“Syria was at one time a place to go when war broke out in other areas,” she said. “They took in refugees. They are the refugees running from war now.
“We are giving them somewhere safe to run to.”
One of the Guides mentioned there might be some people who don’t agree with hosting Syrians locally.
McClellan explained to them that if people stand by and do nothing, then people might feel angry by that. But when you offer a helping hand, people will appreciate that.
“We are helping five people out of thousands and thousands, but it’s better than helping none,” she said. “By starting with five we are starting to be peacemakers in the world.
“We are changing the world for three generations — grandparent, parents and kids. The children of these kids will not be from a war-torn land, they will be from a peaceful place.”
The committee is organizing a friendship group for children and adults and anyone interested in being part of it can contact McClellan or fellow committee member Lorna Sargent. Some of the Guides asked if they could write letters to the family. McClellan welcomed that and said they have a translator who could read the letters to the family.
Everyone can help
Fundraising efforts are in full swing for the Syrian refugee families.
Stock the kitchen shower
The fundraising committee, a sub-group of the Lewisporte Refugee Outreach advisory committee, will be holding a stock-the-kitchen shower for the families coming to Lewisporte. The first family is scheduled to arrive in mid-March.
On March 10 at 7 p.m. people are invited to the Philadelphia Pentecostal Church gymnasium for the event.
The only thing people need to bring that night is something for a lunch that will be available, such as sandwiches, cookies, etcetera. Upon arrival to the shower, people choose an item from a detailed list to purchase and then drop it off at a designated drop-off point. More details will be provided at the event. For more information, contact Susan at 535-0256.
Community breakfast and bake sale
The Lewisporte Refugee Outreach committee invites everyone to a community breakfast and bake sale on Saturday, April 2 beginning at 7 a.m. at the Kinsmen Community Centre in Lewisporte. The cost is $7.
Donations of baked goods for the bake sale can be dropped off at 7 p.m. on April 1.