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Thursday, 10 August 2017 07:00

Two families celebrate their move from war-torn Syria to small-town Claresholm

Written by  Demi Knight
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A celebration was held earlier this summer for the two Syrian families who found refuge in the small welcoming town of Claresholm.

These families, who have been settling in to their new way of life for the past year, are finding strength through their new community to make great lives for themselves within their new homes.
Kathy Edgar Emery, a member of the Community Baptist church, and one of the founders of the fundraising organization that helped make the move possible from their war-torn home to the comfort of Alberta, says this journey has been inspirational, not just for the refugees, but for the community as well.
“It’s been amazing. Everyone here has been supportive. In fact I believe there was only one negative comment to the people themselves. So, they’ve been accepted,” says Emery. “People who have been involved with them just love them. They are such a giving group of people.”
Emery and a group of five others who worked with the Mennonite Central Committee to make it possible for the families to be relocated, hosted a celebration in May to commemorate the families and the year they have spent within the Claresholm community.
The one-year anniversary of these families’ move was celebrated through a potluck supper and the family members sharing their stories on how they are adjusting to this new way of life since entering Canada just 12 short months ago.
Emery says although the move is new, the families are settling in well and growing more comfortable with each passing day.
“They are settling in really well. They love Claresholm and they have all pretty much got work now within the community.”
Emery adds one of the fathers within a new family was set to take his barber certification course in July.
“We have one of the men who is a barber and he is writing his certification course on July 17 and we are providing an Arabic translator for him. He’s had a few struggles learning to do some of the women’s cuts and learning those new things, but he’s currently working in the shop and everyone loves the haircuts he gives. He’s doing well.”
The other family also has settled into familiar jobs within the community, with the dad of the second family working as a chef at Roys. With each day he learns to become more familiar in cooking Canadian dishes. However, the community is excited for him to incorporate some classic Syrian dishes into the mix.
Some residents are working to provide a Syrian restaurant on the highway for him to excel in his craft, but are still finding the right location and funds to make this possible.
His wife has now settled into a job in finance at the Cottonwood Finance Centre and their young 16-year-old daughter is attending high school.
“Their 16-year-old daughter started school last September, and when she arrived she didn’t know any English. It’s amazing because now she is fluent. It’s amazing that you get to see her blossom, settle in and learn a completely new language,” says
Emery of the younger family member and her adaptation to a new life.
The family also has a son who is now 21 years old and has made the courageous move to work as a chef in Edmonton where Emery says he is happy.
Although these families are settling into their new lives with love and gratitude for the opportunities they have been given, Emery says it’s heartbreaking to know where they came from and the lives they had to lead.
“We’ve gotten close to them and listened to their stories, and it just breaks your heart when you hear their stories. These people are just like us. They love their families and they want the best for them, but their families are still back in Syria and you see their fear for them.”
Emery and the group of five volunteers who have worked hard to raise funding for a better life for these families continue to offer their support and love each day.
By staying close and celebrating their time within the community, Emery only hopes the families will continue to grow and adore their new lives in Claresholm now and in the years to come.

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