On December 5, the “official” commitment of the Oliver Syrian Refugee Support Group to the Al Lwisi family was concluded.
It has now been one year since Maria, the final member of the Al Lwisi family, arrived at the Penticton airport and began her adjustment to life in small town Canada, and two years since the first members of the family (Mohammad, Nesreen, Yazan, Ghazal and Manessa) arrived.
Over that time, there has been a lot of learning happening as well as many highs and lows, both for the newcomers and for us, the sponsors.
Of course, the highs included the arrival of Mohammad’s mother, Khadijeh and brother, Ahmad in March, 2016 and sister, Maria in December, 2016, as well as the birth of baby Yusef in February 2017.
Yazan, Ghazal and Manessa: Over the past two years the children have been thriving in school and grasping their new language and culture at an amazing rate.
Ahmad: Ahmad graduated from SOSS this past June while also achieving the first level of the Red Seal chef program.
Many thanks must go to the staff at SOSS and the program instructors for making that opportunity available to him. From that program, he gained part-time employment at Miradoro Restaurant. If you were lucky enough to attend, he and Khadijeh cooked a Syrian dinner at Miradoro for one of their “family table” dinners. They received rave reviews from the 80 or so people in attendance.
In addition to Miradoro, Ahmad worked for Oliver Parks and Recreation in their Sun Fun program during the summer.
Thanks also to the wonderful people at Oliver Parks and Recreation for the opportunity. Currently, Ahmad is working as a yard hand at Southside Builders Mart. He got his driver’s license and has purchased a car to get himself to and from work. He is a very motivated young man and very hard working.
Maria: Maria continues to attend English classes at South Okanagan Immigrant Community Services most mornings. She has been a great student and is picking up the language quickly. She is currently on the job hunt but language, physical restrictions and job experience are proving to be challenges for her.
She will be working with the fine people at WorkBC to improve her marketability as well as volunteering at the hospital auxiliary thrift shop to develop her skills. She recently passed the test for her “learners” driving permit.
Khadijeh: Those of us past middle age will understand the difficulty in learning a new language, however, Khadijeh continues to attend her English classes and is gaining language slowly.
She certainly understands much more than she can express herself.
Meanwhile, she loves children and would like to provide infant daycare/babysitting to supplement the income assistance she currently receives.
If you know anyone in need of a loving “grandma” to provide care, please pass along her name.
Mohammad and Nesreen: Full-time employment for Mohammad continues to be a challenge. He is currently on the casual list for Interior Health in the housekeeping and food service departments. Hopefully, he will acquire a permanent placement soon, perhaps when the new hospital tower in Penticton is completed.
Their living arrangements have changed somewhat in the last few months. Khadijeh, Ahmad and Maria found a separate apartment so the current rental house is a little less crowded and therefore, more comfortable.
As mentioned at the beginning, our “official” commitment is over and all the money raised has been distributed to the family. However, our emotional commitment to them will continue as they continue their journey into the future.
We would like to express thanks to the many businesses, agencies, groups and individuals who have been particularly supportive. We wish to thank you for your kind wishes, financial support, prayers and acceptance. You have made a difference.
Oliver Refugee Committee