West Kelowna’s new Syrian residents are still getting their bearings, while the group who sponsored their relocation continue to work tirelessly to ensure they have everything they need.
Gioia Morris, West Kelowna Initiative for Refugee Settlement spokesperson, said a fundraiser to help offset some of the costs that the family of six will accrue as they get integrated in the community is scheduled for this spring.
Journalist Amanda Lindhout has agreed to speak in Kelowna June 6 for the fundraiser. Dollars collected will go to the helping settle the families making the Okanagan home.
Lindhout will delve into her bestselling memoir, A House in the Sky, which details her 15 month ordeal of being kidnapped and held for ransom in Somalia.
She has found healing through forgiveness and compassion, as well as extensive counselling for PTSD.
In the meantime, Morris said her community is working overtime to ensure its new Syrian residents have a smooth transition, but there’s still a lot of work to do.
“This has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life actually. The people in this group (who sponsored the family) have such big hearts and so generous,” she said, noting that the family arrived Jan. 28, which was about a month ahead of schedule.
“A gentleman offered his house— he’s (loaned) them a completely furnished home with a view of the lake and he moved into the basement,” said Morris.
“It turned out that he, himself, was a Bulgarian refugee from 25 years ago, and he said ‘I want to help them, they can have my house.’”
Together they’re planning to plant a garden in the summer.
There have been countless more examples of kindness and generosity, said Morris, noting that the children’s new school has been particularly notable.
“The principal at (the school) has been amazing at helping us prepare,” she said.
“We were able to visit the two different classrooms, a Grade 1 and Grade 4/5 split class and when we got there the students welcomed them, smiling and waving.
“The school did a great job preparing the kids.”
The warmth and generosity extended to the family has not been lost on them.
“They are extremely overwhelmed, but they are so grateful,” said Morris. “They will not stop saying thank you. The kids are so happy, they are so loving.”
None of the family members speak English just yet, but they are intent on learning.
The father of the family already is hoping to find work, Morris said.
“He’s motivated, but he has little education,” she said. “English is our first priority, after housing.”
To learn more about the fundraising efforts go to https://www.facebook.com/wkirs.