When St. Andrew’s first began exploring the idea of refugee support in the late winter, early spring of 2015, a small working group was formed and articulated three objectives for our work: 1) The sponsorship of a family, most likely from Syria. 2) Support for refugees still in the Middle East and the faith communities that are helping them. 3) Building friendship with the Halifax Muslim community. Much progress has been made on all three objectives.

On June 7, 2016, we welcomed the arrival of the Almasalmeh family to Halifax. Wesam, Waed, Aisha and Bilasan were tired after their long flight to Canada from Jordan but very happy to have a new home after being forced to flee their native Syria in early 2013. Their arrival was also a reunion of Wesam with several close relatives who had preceded him to Halifax as refugees from the Syrian civil war. The months of planning, preparation and fund raising by the Refugee Sponsorship Group enabled a smooth transition for the family to their furnished apartment in the Clayton Park west area. Their apartment building is close to schools, shopping and home to one of Wesam’s uncles.

A serious medical condition affecting baby Bilasan required several trips to Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto for specialized treatment. The Sponsorship Group assisted the family through this difficult period and wishes to recognize the extraordinary care and kindness the family received both at Sick Kids and at the IWK in Halifax. Bilasan, who celebrated her first birthday on February 14, is healthy and continuing to receive wonderful care at the IWK.

The family is adjusting well to their new life in Canada. Wesam is enrolled as a full-time student in Dalhousie’s English for Academic Purposes program which is a prerequisite for him to complete his university education. Waed is taking English language classes through the library, supplemented by at home language training thanks to several members of the Refugee Sponsorship Group. Aisha, who turned five during her first Canadian summer, started school in September and is by all accounts doing very well.

The impact Saint Andrew’s United Church has had on this young refugee family is best expressed by Wesam Almasalmeh himself:

“Thank you Saint Andrew’s. You have changed our lives. When we were refugees in Jordan we only thought about survival. Now we think about the future. We already feel we are Canadians. May God bless you for the love, support and kindness you have given my family”.