HALIFAX STANFIELD: It was such a simple gesture, but it said everything that needed to be said.
Surrounded by many after their arrival at Halifax Stanfield International Airport (HSIA) on Feb. 15, little Leen Baroud reached out with her small fingers and touched the small fingers of Isobel Fillier, wrapping them around that of Isobel’s. It may not have been noticed by many, but those that did see it saw it as a the bond of new friendships being formed.
Leen and her family, dad Wassem, mom Nour, brother Bodi, and grandmother Huda were welcomed to their new home in Canada with much fanfare from the many community volunteers with the Riverlake Syrian Refugee Project that made it possible for them to leave the war-torn destruction of their former homeland in Syria.
“I’m happy now,” said Wassem after picking up the family’s luggage. “I like being in Canada.”
For the past year-plus the family had lived in Jordan as they awaited the approval of coming to Canada. The Riverlake Syrian Refugee Project—a group of six churches representing St. Thomas Anglican; St. Rose of Lima; Wellington United; St. Margaret’s Anglican; St. John’s United Church; and Fall River Chapel—were also anxious to have their sponsored family arrive.
When the Baroud’s touched down in Halifax, they had been travelling for 37 hours, having flown out of Jordan on Feb. 14. They will live in a Muslim community in Clayton Park, near a Mosque.
Wassem is happy to have somewhere to begin their life without living everyday with the fear of death.
“I feel for my children, finally a safe place for my family,” he said.
He couldn’t put into words what seeing close to 100 people waving Canadian flags, cheering as they made their way through the security gates, and with signs welcoming them to their new home meant.
“I can’t thank them enough,” he said. “It’s awesome, all of them. They give us a new life. I thank them very much.
“They are very kind. I can’t focus right now.”
The Baroud’s weren’t the only ones excited that the day had finally arrived.
“It’s more than Christmas,” exclaimed chairwoman Sue MacLean minutes before the family landed at HSIA. “It’s been a year of working hard, anticipating, and disappointment, and encouragement. I just don’t know what I’m going to do with myself tomorrow.”
She said she didn’t sleep much on Feb. 14 as she eagerly awaited the families arrival.
“It was actually better than you think because I would wake up and think something needs to be done, but everything was done,” said MacLean.
MacLean said she had kleenex on hand for when she saw the family come through the security gates and into their new home in Canada.
Unlike other groups that feel once their refugee families have arrived, the hard work begins, MacLean thinks the opposite. The hard work was getting the family to Canada.
“I think this is the easy work that’s beginning because they’re already friends, they’re already family,” she said. “Now it’;s just supporting them and helping them be the best Canadian citizens they can be.”
If the interaction between Leen and Isobel and the other kids on hand is any indication, that is off to a superb start.