Donations Update

Mukumba kids
The beautiful children in our newest family are excited to start school this week.

DONATIONS UPDATE:

Thank you for the outpouring of donations and offers of help. Every single one is greatly appreciated! Due to the high volume of offers, and our committee’s busyness with getting the family established in these early days, it sometimes takes a few days to respond to each individual offer.

In terms of household donations, we’ve collected quite a few things over the past week. At this point, we do not need any more clothing for family members. Here’s what is still needed:

– Toolkit with basic household tools
– Cleaning supplies kit
– Bicycles for two girls (ages 13 and 7)
– Grocery carrier or wagon (for trips on foot to Walmart)
– Snow shovel
– TV for rental house
– Large area rugs
– Laundry baskets
– Any gift cards for Walmart, Independent, or Value Village

If you’ve contacted us about being a volunteer driver for ESL classes in Owen Sound, we will be in touch shortly to create a tentative schedule. If anyone else is interested in driving, please let us know!

Reach us on Facebook or via email: saugeen.refugeefund@gmail.com

 

 

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On keeping 12 kids entertained during the winter

The Alibrahim family has been in Port Elgin for nearly two months now. It’s hard to believe how quickly the time has flown, and yet it also seems like they’ve been here forever.

The kids are doing great in school and the parents are thriving in English classes in Owen Sound. Saad goes five days a week, while Ghaydaa goes three times, due to childcare limitations. The three littlest ones accompany their parents to Owen Sound, with the baby staying in class while the 3-year-old and 4-year-old attend the YMCA daycare.

The parents are always eager to practice new vocabulary words and phrases. Ghaydaa, in particular, is excited to run through her English grocery words, which she adorably pulls out of nowhere in the middle of conversations. “Chicken! Beef! Fridge! Chair! Lamb! Cheese!” Saad and 18-year-old daughter, Aisha, are now able to carry on conversations and facilitate translation, which is amazing, since that was not possible when they first arrived.

Our core group, together with many generous volunteers, has been working hard to teach the family how to enjoy the Canadian winter. The kids love skating and have become very good at it in a short period of time. Now their favourite thing to do is attend the sponsored skates at the Plex, where they whiz around the ice for an hour and a half.

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17-year-old Ibrahim pushes his 5-year-old brother Hassan around the rink

Two weeks ago, just before the snow melted, we squeezed in a glorious afternoon of sledding at Eastwood Park. It was a real highlight, as shrieks of joy and disbelief at the speed they were able to reach on a sled filled the air for several hours. The entire family was welcomed back to a nearby home for hot chocolate, cookies, and games afterward.

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Katherine, Mariam, and Aisha head down the slope on a toboggan, while Saad looks on skeptically!

It’s been interesting trying to keep 12 kids occupied during March Break, especially with such poor weather. (I used to think keeping three busy was a challenge, but now I realize it’s nothing compared to a dozen!) We’ve done lots of skating, and the older boys have attended the sponsored swims at the nearby pool.

On Friday we went to MacGregor Point Provincial Park for a campfire cookout with beef hotdogs and marshmallows. We adults hovered around the fire, trying to warm up in the chilly air, while the kids raced around the forest, visited the beach, played football and badminton. The family enjoyed it greatly, although they were cold after an hour and a half and told me they’d love to try it again in the summer when it’s warm. We keep promising it will warm up, but I’m not sure they believe us…

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A warm campfire on a chilly March day was a great ending to March Break.

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The kids are supposed to receive a shipment of bicycles from the Tiverton Lions Club this weekend, which will give them even more freedom to explore the town.

At the end of February, Penny Inkster and members of the United Church in Port Elgin organized a potluck dinner to introduce the Alibrahims to all the volunteers who are involved in their resettlement. It was so much fun that we’ve decided to have community dinners on a regular basis; the next one will be on March 31 – although it is by invitation only.

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Potluck dinner at the United Church. It was an impressive array of food!

Every week Canadian life gets easier for them, as they understand more of how it works – and especially now that they get a weekly delivery of 35 bags of pita bread right to their front door! Ghaydaa recently told me and Mariam that she feels more at home here than she ever did in Lebanon. Her words made us feel happy, since that sense of belonging is precisely what we hope for her (and the rest of the family) to feel while living in this community.

Thank you for the ongoing support from all. It is much appreciated.

Early morning skating

We went skating early this morning in Southampton. We rounded up several baskets full of donated ice skates and helmets, asked volunteers to come give us a hand, and hit the ice for an hour. Our newcomers did amazingly well!

Some of the kids, especially the younger ones, caught on surprisingly fast, while some of the older ones were reluctant to try. There was much laughter had by all.

We’re looking forward to having many more Canadian experiences together. The family seems to be adapting well and is very eager and willing to learn about life here in Saugeen Shores. Thanks to everyone for the help and support.

Here are some of the kids admiring the hockey players after our time was up.

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Welcome to Saugeen Shores!

hotel pickup

I am overjoyed to announce that our newcomers have arrived. They are now settled, safe and sound, in their new home. It’s been a whirlwind weekend for everyone, full of new words and names, struggled conversations that are a mix of English and Arabic, explanations about how things work, the triple cheek-kisses we’ve quickly learned how to do, many smiles and much laughter at our inability to communicate whenever Mariam the translator steps out of the room.

They are lovely people. The children can’t wait to start school as soon as possible, and the parents are eager to start English classes. They’ve had a long, hard journey, and several years of uncertainty since being forced to leave their home in Aleppo, Syria, so it is both exciting and exhausting to start yet again.

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Excited children exploring their new home

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We have insisted on their need for privacy, but don’t let that get in the way of welcoming them. If you see them, please say hello, tell them how happy you are to have them here, extend an offer of hospitality, a hug, handshake or kiss. They are eager to meet people, and were visibly amazed to learn that the community’s donations are the reason they’re here.

We all have a steep learning curve ahead. This is when the real work starts, and no doubt we’ll be calling on many of you who have offered assistance. Right now, the priority is to get the kids enrolled in school, catch up on doctor and dentist appointments, orient them in the town, start English classes, and start discussing employment options.

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A snuggle with the littlest family member

Thanks for all your support so far.

Preparing the House

The house is almost ready for the family to arrive. There are just a few outstanding items, so please let us know if you can help with any of the following: 2 bunk beds with mattresses, 1 extra single bed mattress, and a snow blower. Comment here or email saugeen.refugeefund@gmail.com.

We’re still waiting. As I wrote recently, the family has passed their interview and we’re now waiting for the results of the security screening and medical checks. Fingers crossed that they’ll be here soon in January!