The Al Khalif household is simply grateful to lastly be in Canada, even when the pandemic delayed their arrival and quashed their much-anticipated airport reunion.
Syrian refugees Mahmoud Al Khalif, his spouse Mariam, and their three kids waited practically 5 years to reunite together with his sister in Regina.
Then, simply because the household acquired able to fly from Lebanon to Canada this previous spring, the pandemic shut down the borders and extended the separation.
Their brother-in-law, Abdelkarim Al Elaiwy, who has lived in Regina since January 2016, mentioned the delay was laborious to take after a lot anticipation.
“After COVID-19, we [were] very, very unhappy in regards to the unhealthy luck,” mentioned Al Elaiwy.
It took one other six months, however the household was lastly allowed entrance to Canada on September 21.
The long-awaited hugs needed to wait a bit longer, nonetheless.
Syrian refugee Mahmoud Al Khalif, second from proper, and his spouse, Mariam, far proper, accomplished a 14-day quarantine with their three kids in time to rejoice Canadian Thanksgiving in Regina together with his sister, Rawda Al Khalif, second from left, and her husband, Abdelkarim Al Elaiwy, again left, and their seven kids. Three of these kids are lacking from the picture. (Kirk Fraser/CBC Information)
The 2 teams have been solely capable of wave to one another from a distance at Regina Worldwide Airport. The refugees arriving from Lebanon needed to quarantine for 14 days with no contact with anybody else, as required by a federal public well being order.
For 30-year-old Rawda Al Khalif, being unable to hug her brother on the airport was excruciating. She’s missed him, and apprehensive about him, each day since leaving him behind in Lebanon.
“Crying, unhappy, no eat, no sleeping,” mentioned Rawda.
The brother and sister and their households have at all times been very shut. They fled the Syrian civil conflict collectively in 2011 after which lived in the identical home in Lebanon.
In late 2015, Rawda and her household have been chosen to maneuver to Canada as government-sponsored refugees. They have been excited, and grateful, however torn about leaving their relations behind.
“Our coronary heart is damaged about that,” mentioned Rawda’s husband Al Elaiwy. “I like Canada. Very, excellent nation…[but] right here, we do not have anybody. No relations.”
Regina resident Abdelkarim Al Elaiwy visited his nephews and niece by a window till they accomplished their 14-day quarantine on October 6, 2020. (CBC Information)
Rawda has discovered the Canadian winters significantly isolating. However she and her husband could not afford to sponsor her brother and his household on their very own.
Then, an opportunity encounter modified every part. They met a brand new buddy within the park, Regina resident Blair Roberts, and shortly a gaggle of Canadian associates and a few native church buildings have been teaming as much as increase cash and fill out varieties for a non-public sponsorship.
“We’re so glad. Thanks, thanks,” mentioned Al Elaiwy, who continues to be amazed by their generosity.
Pandemic nonetheless poses challenges
Rawda Al Khalif, a mom of seven, has struggled with melancholy since shifting to Canada in early 2016. She had no different relations right here till her brother, Mahmoud, arrived together with his household on Sept. 21, 2020. (CBC Information)
On Thursday, simply earlier than the Thanksgiving lengthy weekend, Al Elaiwy hosted his brother-in-law’s household— now out of quarantine — at his bungalow in south Regina.
All 10 of the kids ran round within the yard whereas the dad and mom drank tea. The households, who will stick collectively in a bubble, have been planning to rejoice each a birthday and Canadian Thanksgiving over the weekend.
The Al Khalifs are simply beginning to consider what comes subsequent. They need to take English classes and ship their kids to high school.
However the newcomers know the pandemic will current extra challenges.
The Regina Open Door Society, which helps immigrants and refugees with housing, language, and employment, has moved most of its companies on-line, with restricted in-person appointments.
Getachew Woldeyesus is a senior supervisor on the Regina Open Door Society, which helps newcomers with housing, language courses, employment counselling and different free companies. (Kirk Fraser/CBC Information)
“Some could not even have what they want [to access services], like bandwidth and tools, however our employees in each division has labored very laborious [to help them],” mentioned Getachew Woldeyesus, a settlement employee, including that every part takes longer today.
Woldeyesus mentioned far fewer immigrants and refugees have arrived within the metropolis this 12 months, though a number of government-sponsored refugee households arrived in September and he expects extra within the coming months.
“I do not suppose we anticipate a wave, I feel it should nonetheless be a trickle,” he mentioned. “All the time the refugees are in our thoughts as a result of they have to be in a protected place like Canada.”
Rawda Al Khalif, 30, got here to Canada in January, 2016 as a government-sponsored refugee, however then discovered associates and church buildings in Regina, Sask. keen to privately sponsor her brother, Mahmoud, and his household. (Kirk Fraser/CBC Information)
Mahmoud Al Khalif hopes he can ultimately sponsor his brother, Abdel Rahman, who was wounded through the latest Beirut explosion. For now, he’ll concentrate on embracing life in Canada.
The 2 households nonetheless discover it surreal to be collectively once more.
“I do not imagine, I do not imagine this. As a result of I’m very glad and excited, I can’t imagine,” mentioned Al Elaiwy.
He and his spouse say their life in Canada will likely be even higher now that they’ll share it with household.
Rawda reaches over and kisses her brother on the cheek. “My brother,” she mentioned. “Completely satisfied.”
Syrian refugees Mahmoud Al Khalif and his spouse, Mariam Al Shahadah, who accomplished a 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Regina, Sask., need their three kids to go to high school and play on the park. (Kirk Fraser/CBC Information)