So our young refugee (I’ll call him A.) arrived last night after a VERY long trip from Amman. He was in good spirits though, and after enduring a seemingly endless trip from the airport to his temporary home in The Annex, we managed to feed him and get him set up with a telephone and internet access. (Shout out to Alberta and Elizabeth C. for the fabulous job stocking the apartment, and getting it set up for A’s arrival!) He was able to call home and speak with his family, which was important. We also did a very basic orientation, and provided contact information for committee members should he need it. We then left him to get some rest.
Elizabeth S. and I met him this morning, and we went to Aroma for breakfast. After a few false starts with Google Translate, we managed to get into a fairly easy pattern of communicating by either typing or speaking English phrases and having them translated into Arabic (and vice versa). While not perfect, the technology is amazing, and I couldn’t imagine doing this work without it, unless we had a full-time translator, that is. (And while I mention translation, many, many thanks to Ghuna B., a Ph. D student at Osgoode Hall and native speaker of Arabic who met us at the airport yesterday, and drove into town with us to help get A set up in his bachelor pad. Her help during the first few hours was invaluable.)
We then went shopping for a few necessities at Dollarama and Honest Ed’s, picked up an adapter so that he could charge his mobile phone, and found him a pair of smart sandals at Aldo. Then a quiet coffee at Peter Pan, and home so he could rest up a bit. Tonight he is meeting the owners of the coach house flat he is staying in … they have an Arabic-speaking friend that is coming over to make the conversation flow a little more easily.
The next few days involve a lot of administrative stuff: registering for OHIP, a language skills assessment, etc.
Now, it’s early days … (hours, really), but I have a very good feeling about how this sponsorship will go. A. is a charming, motivated, and confident young man. He smiles easily, and looks you right in the eye when he talks to you. He is very eager to begin his English classes, and he has his sights on university in the not-too-distant future. He said that one of the reasons he made the move to Canada (we didn’t get into the nitty gritty of it … we don’t know why he is a refugee, and we didn’t press him on the matter.) was to “improve himself”. My feeling is that he has gumption and courage, and with the right support, will become a text-book example of why it is so important that we offer refugees a chance here in Canada.
To protect A’s privacy, we won’t be providing a lot of detail about him or his progress toward his goals. If you are curious, drop me a line, and I can fill you in if it is appropriate to do so. But suffice it to say that I, personally, am thrilled to have the chance to help this young person get a leg up in Canada.
I would also like to take this chance to thank the many supporters who have helped us get this far … those who have donated money, time, treasure and talent. In particular, I – and I think I speak on behalf of our committee – am very grateful to the lovely couple who have offered A. a quite, private, and charming place to live on a lovely street in The Annex. We had very little notice of his arrival, and we (luckily) had not rented an apartment that sat empty for several months since making our initial application. Being able to give him a safe and comfortable place on such short notice has been a tremendous help, and allows us to move more quickly on the more complicated matters related to resettlement. Indeed, we had several generous offers of accommodation, but in the end, we chose this one because of its proximity to members of our committee … thanks to all who offered help with this most critical of resettlement tasks.
As always, thanks for your support and good wishes …