The first miracle: the June 29 Syrian fundraiser dinner/ḥaflah was a culinary treat and financial success. We raised nearly enough funds to pay off government loans for both families. Thanks to all who attended and made generous donations.
second miracle: Last week, Ubaydah, Samar and Faruq were
interviewed and accepted as new members of the Tyee Housing Co-op. This will
provide housing security for the Rashid family, and reduce their monthly rent
expense considerably. Timing is excellent, as they will move in five weeks
before our sponsorship period ends. The
third miracle: With the burdensome government loan nearly
resolved, and housing security achieved, we have been fervently hoping Ubaydah
could meet the next great challenge – an initial full-time job. And he has done
just that. On
July 4, Ubaydah had a job interview, and on July 5, he started work. What a
marvellous ten days for this family!
Update: All tickets are now sold, but it is still possible to donate without participating in the dinner: these donations would be receipted at full value.
We are excited to announce
that Sari Alesh, an accomplished violinist from Syria, will delight us with an interlude of Syrian music.
Thanks to the many people who have already purchased
tickets to support
the Rashid family in repaying
their loans to the federal government.
At long last, you can join us
in welcoming the Syrian family sponsored by Congregation Emanu-El. Your support thus far has been remarkable. We
hope you can help again, as we seek to help the Rashid family raise funds to
repay their large travel loan.
The Rashids – Ubaydah, Samar
and Faruq – were not among the first 25,000 Syrian refugees accepted into
Canada. As a result, their travel expenses were not covered by the Canadian
government. They received a loan of several
thousands of dollars, and must now repay it.
As you can imagine, the
outstanding loan is very stressful for the family, who are diligently studying
English and a taking a training course to find employment.
Ubaydah’s brother Amer and
his family are in a similar situation. They are connected to another
sponsorship group (the Marhabaan group), who have joined with us to co-sponsor
this fundraising event.
Together, we are supporting a TRADITIONAL SYRIAN DINNER and ḤAFLAH (party). Samar and Ubaydah will prepare
the vegetarian and fish meal together with his brother and family. The proceeds
will assist the families to repay their travel loans.
Please join us for this
casual, delicious evening:
DATE: June 29, 6–8pm at Congregation Emanu-El
TIME: 6 to 8 pm
Emanu-El Synagogue, 1461 Blanshard Street
COST: $100 per person*
The venue can only
accommodate 100 people, so we urge you to sign up soon if you would like to
enjoy this evening. If you cannot attend but are willing to support someone
else to attend the dinner, or make a donation to support the family, it would
be greatly appreciated.
Please confirm your
attendance no later than June 8 by sending a cheque to Congregation
Emanu-El 1461 Blanshard Street, Victoria, BC V8W 2J3. For payment by credit
card, call the synagogue office at 250-382-0615 Tuesday through Thursday, 9:30
a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
After June 8, we will open this event to the larger
Questions? Please contact Michael Goldstein at
*Ticket price is not eligible
for a charitable tax receipt.
Our big news is that we managed to arrange a skills
assessment through Camosun College for Ubaydah. In mid-February, he spent a
couple of hours with the Electronics and Computer Engineering Department Chair
and an Arabic-speaking instructor. Ubaydah was given the task of
troubleshooting and repairing a defective power supply which to his great
satisfaction he accomplished readily.
Clearly language will continue to be his biggest challenge
in finding work and in the future to upgrading his skills. As a stop-gap
measure, our sponsorship group found a volunteer position for him in a small
electronics repair shop – which he loved. Ubaydah was grateful to have
something meaningful to occupy his time. He enjoyed the contribution he was
able to make to the business during the few weeks that he spent afternoons
At present, he is enrolled in an all-day program put on
jointly by the ICA and the BC Alliance for Manufacturing. The object of the
program is to prepare refugees to seek work opportunities in Canada. The
potential for employment at the conclusion of this two-month program is
promising. Ubaydah is very happy at being able to participate, and attends ESL
two evenings a week. Samar joked that he comes home at 9:00 pm after a 12 hour
day, has dinner and falls asleep immediately.
Samar enjoys working around their small apartment – and we
have discovered she is a great cook. She would like to find part-time
employment as well. Once Faruq enters kindergarten, in the fall of 2017, she
may have more options. Child-care will be a problem until then.
In the last week, there has been considerable excitement in
the family’s household. Ubaydah’s brother and his family, who are being
sponsored by another group, arrived in Victoria on March 22. They are a close-knit family, and Faruq has missed his cousins. Everyone is so happy at being in
the same city again.
The family has been trying to find a small freezer on
UsedVictoria, without success. Periodically they are able to buy pita bread in
bulk through the mosque, but their top-of-fridge freezer isn’t big enough to
hold large amounts. From time-to-time also they find price reductions on halal
meat, and a small freezer would help them save money if they can buy in larger
quantities. If you can help, please let us know.
The first few weeks since the family
arrived have been hectic – but “good hectic”. Phones and phone plans have been
secured, as has internet service. A donor stepped up to buy the family a TV,
and we were able to find a good second-hand laptop, set up for us by a computer
Qualified volunteers have come forward to
begin working with Ubaydah and Samar on English. Both are keen to learn as much as possible
before they start formal ESL classes through the ICA.
Faruq is enrolled part time at a local
preschool, and as we hoped, is picking up English. It’s a great setting for him to socialize and
play with other children.
We are gradually expanding the initial
focus which was on setting up a household, acquiring the necessities and
visiting the doctor. Our sponsorship group is also ensuring that family is
learning about Victoria, and the many recreational opportunities available to
The presence of a family member in Victoria
has proven invaluable. You may recall that Ubaydah’s sister has lived here for
several years, and she has made herself available to translate and assist
While Ubaydah and Samar regularly thank us
for what we have done and are doing, we are grateful to them for the warmth
they have shown us, and for their willingness to do whatever is needed to
further their adjustment to Canadian life.
We expect that as they become integrated
and comfortable in Victoria, we may be able to introduce them to the many
supportive members of our community. However, for the time being, the ICA is
insisting on security and privacy for the family. You will hear as soon as this
On behalf of Emanu-el’s Syrian Refugee
The photo is of Phoebe Ramsay on Leros Island in Greece, February 2016, with unnamed refugee girl. (Photograph: Lies Kinskey)
Congregation Emanu-El’s Adult Education Committee invites you to hear a talk about
the refugee crisis in Greece on Thursday, November 17th, 7:00 pm at
Victoria resident Phoebe Ramsay will be sharing her recent experiences
as a volunteer on the front lines of the refugee crisis in Greece.
volunteered on the ground over seven months from December 2015 to June 2016.
Her journey brought her to Athens, the Greek islands where refugees came
ashore, and finally the makeshift camp of Idomeni where 15,000 people were
stranded after the European borders were sealed in March 2016. She will be
sharing stories of hope, of desperation, and of humanity.
Our Syrian refugee family – mother Samar, father Ubaydah and four-year-old son Faruq – touched down at the
Victoria airport on Thursday, September 22 at 10:30 p.m. At long last.
Ubaydah’s sister and her excited young
sons, carrying roses, were the first to greet the family. Immediately
after, Samar and Ubaydah, with warm smiles, walked towards our welcoming group, shaking hands and kissing each of us
in turn. We were asked by the
Intercultural Association (our sponsor agency) not to take pictures, but the
quintessential moment was definitely that of Ubaydah and Rabbi Harry in a long
As Rabbi Harry said, “It
was amazing to feel the warmth of the family and the palpable sense of hope and ḥen (grace).“ Without a
common language, in a matter of a few minutes, we all felt a real sense of
Following this momentous
arrival, the family was driven to their bright, beautiful apartment. which our
group furnished and outfitted with great care and respect. In the next
few days, members of our group have been
helping with immediate needs: bank account,
phone service and internet, food
shopping and the like.
Our support of the
family has only just begun as we continue in the days ahead to ensure the
family’s well-being over the next year.
So much of this effort
has been made possible through the extraordinary generosity and caring of
Congregation Emanu-El and the community. To each and every one who has
contributed in a myriad of ways…our sincere gratitude.
We have just been notified that our Syrian family will not, unfortunately, arrive in Victoria on Monday. In fact, we are once again in ‘waiting’ mode. The political chaos following the attempted coup in Turkey has led to many kinds of paperwork ‘screw-ups’. The ICA was advised yesterday that there is a problem with the family’s Exit Permit. Canadian Government Officials in Turkey are trying to determine what is happening, but getting any kind of reliable information is proving extremely difficult. The International Organization for Migration, a UN-based organization, is working on all possible solutions.
What is clear, however, is that refugees are facing hurdles in receiving clearances to leave. We were so disappointed to learn this late yesterday. However, we will continue to prepare at a much slower pace, and hope that a resolution can be found. We will keep the rental accommodation, given our extraordinary luck in finding something suitable. Thank you for the many messages of good cheer we received following the announcement of their imminent arrival. We’ll just file them for now, and think positively toward the future. Jean Dragushan Sponsorship Committee Chair Congregation Emanu-El firstname.lastname@example.org