Moving forward

IMG_3762The Abukars are settling in well. The children are enjoying school. The parents are involved in academic upgrading of their own, as well as being busy with the children and doing all the administrative work necessary for those who are new to Canada. Those who have been working closely with them over the last couple of months have been delighted to get to know them better. They have stories, skills, values and interests that are a wonderful addition to our community. We feel so fortunate that we were matched with this particular family!

The Refugee Coalition sponsorship group has completed the preparation stage and and the first stage of sponsorship (supporting the family’s arrival). Now the next stage, which is about the family building their life in Canada and taking fuller agency in decision-making and planning for the future, is in full swing.

IMG_3774The Abukars are no longer refugees; they are members of our community. And thus it is time to put this website to rest, to allow them to build their own lives with no more scrutiny than any other family. They will continue to enjoy the support of the sponsorship group through their first year in Canada and the welcome of a generous and open-minded community. The SVRC increasingly has its eyes on the horizon, on Month 13, when the formal sponsorship will end, to ensure that the family will have the skills, resources and confidence to move forward without formal sponsorship support.

17991798_1438488799547507_3374385891674400644_nIn the meantime the Coalition is extremely grateful to members of the community and to supporters from afar for everything they have contributed to this immigration project. We encourage you all to take whatever natural opportunities arise to befriend the Abukars and help them feel like they are valued members of the community.


Community Welcome Potluck

Please join us Sunday March 12 at 4 pm at the the Bosun Hall for a community potluck party to celebrate the Abukars’ arrival. Remember that we move to Daylight Savings Time this weekend, so don’t forgot to push your clocks forward in the morning!

Plan to arrive around 4 if you are bringing a dish to share. We expect food to be served starting around 4:30.

If you like, you could consider bringing a dish that represents a culture or a place in the world where you have ethnic roots.

However out of respect for the Abukars’ dietary restrictions we ask for no pork products, please! We encourage vegetarian, fish or seafood dishes, or alternatively you could use halal meat. For detailed information see our article on Cooking for Muslim friends.


Cooking for Muslim friends

For Muslims there are rules about what food is permitted. If you are at all familiar with Jewish laws around kosher food, you will notice a fair bit of similarity with Muslim ‘halal’ food rules.

No pork or pork-derived food is permitted. So ham, bacon, pork and many types of sausage are not eaten.

Chicken, beef and other meats must be certified halal to be allowed. The halal certification pertains to how the animals are raised and kept prior to slaughter, as well as to the particular way in which they are killed. Among other things they must be blessed by a devout Muslim in God’s (Allah’s) name before slaughter.

Fish, seafood, dairy, eggs, fruits, nuts, oils, vegetables, legumes and grains can all be eaten without restriction.

zabiha_halal_chicken_breastIf you are preparing food to share with a Muslim person, the simplest solution is probably to stick with vegetarian dishes. However if you would like to include meat, the challenge is not insurmountable. The Real Canadian Wholesale store in Nelson has a range of halal meats in their frozen meat section under the Mina and Zahiba Halal brands.

mina.burgerSome of what they carry is frozen prepared food like lasagna, pizza and chicken nuggets. However they also have plain chicken breasts, and there are plain beef burgers that can be used as-is or thawed and broken up to use as ground beef. A good way to label such dishes as halal at a potluck is to cut the halal designation from the product box affix to the small place-card that identifies your dish eg. “Shepherd’s Pie [halal].”

Patience, dear friends

Just a little reminder to our incredibly enthusiastic local community. While we know how anxious you are to meet and welcome our new family (and I can assure you, they are looking forward just as much to meeting all of you), they are coping with 11 hours of jet lag, the exhaustion of three solid days of international travel over 14,000 km, and a tidal wave of culture shock. Please do not drop by for a little visit. They may be sleeping. They need time to settle in. And they have many pressing bureaucratic tasks to attend to. All in good time…

The Welcome Wave

Our sponsored family will be travelling from the Castlegar airport to New Denver on the afternoon of Thursday February 23rd. We want to give them a cheery Slocan Valley welcome. We know that countless members of the community have been anxiously awaiting their arrival. Here is your chance to show your enthusiasm!

If you have a few moments free on Thursday afternoon, consider participating in the Welcome Wave. Make a poster, put streamers or balloons on a stick, hoist a Canadian flag or just bring your happy hands. We’ll gather along Highway 6 between 3rd Ave (Orchard) and 6th Ave (Main St) and watch for the white minibus to roll into town.

They will probably arrive sometime around 3:15 pm, but it could be an hour on either side of that. For late updates on the time of their arrival check this website Thursday afternoon. We expect to be able to give a fairly precise ETA by about 2 pm, and then a final 10-minute notification. Alternatively, if you’re a Twitter person, follow us for ETA tweets @SVRC_info .

(If you live in the south valley, Slocan or Silverton, you will likely be able to deduce times for your community, and you are welcome to give the bus a wave too of course!)

Greeting the family

Screen Shot 2017-02-16 at 6.23.47 PMOur plans for a welcome are the result of an effort to balance everyone’s enthusiasm with respect for the immense challenges the family will have overcome in travelling here. Imagine getting on an airplane for the first time in your life, leaving behind everything you know, and doing so with six children aged 10 and under, spending more than 48 hours in transit, sixteen hours in the air, touching three continents. Well, try to imagine.

They will be put up overnight in Vancouver, cared for in part by some kind friends of people here in the valley. The next day they will make the last hop to Castlegar, where we hope the weather will be clear and the plane will land. We have a group poised to greet them at the airport. That will be a brief celebratory arrival with lots of photos and a jubilant excited crowd.

From there we will usher them onto the Slocan Youth Van, a minibus generously shared with us by the WE Graham Community Service Society. This will allow the family to all travel comfortably together to New Denver in a single vehicle after the head-spinning chaos they’ll have endured over the previous couple of days. A couple of members of our sponsorship group will travel with them to chat and answer questions if needed.

We hope people will come out along the highway to participate in the Welcome Wave as the bus arrives in New Denver on the afternoon of the 23rd. Check this website’s main page on February 23rd for up-to-the-minute info on the bus’s ETA and route.

We will have a small mealtime reception at the home of one of the members of the SVRC later that day. This way they can properly meet members of our sponsorship group who until then will have been just names attached to messages and strangers’ smiling faces at the airport. The timing and length of this reception will be entirely up to the family. We understand that they may be exhausted and completely overwhelmed. But they may also be keen to familiarize themselves with the people who are welcoming them.

Over the next week we imagine they will be recovering from jet-lag, but there are many things that will need to be done. There will be the signing of a lease, learning about winter heating by wood and furnace, activating utility accounts, setting up bank accounts and learning about Canadian banking systems, travelling to Nelson to Service Canada to complete their federal documentation, enrolling the children in school, starting school and Strong Start, applying for MSP coverage and other government services, and learning their way around town.

So we have decided to wait until the second week of March for a larger-scale community welcome. We are planning a community potluck for March 12th at the Bosun. More details will be shared here later.

Travel details

Assuming the weather cooperates, the family will leaving Nairobi on February 21st to arrive at the Castlegar airport on the 23rd! They have their plane tickets, visas and “fitness to travel paperwork” in hand together with detailed instructions about airline baggage regulations.

We have learned about two invaluable organizations that help refugee families with the process of resettlement and travel. The first is a UN organization referred to as IOM: the International Organization for Migration. They have offices in several cities where there are many displaced people, and one of the largest such offices is in Nairobi. They are the intermediary between refugee claimants and the various governments who are willing to help resettle them. In our family’s case they have been instrumental at helping with medical appointments, communicating on their behalf with the Canadian Embassy, facilitating parts of the security vetting, fingerprinting, verifying documentation and all sorts of other details.

Screen Shot 2017-02-15 at 12.08.53 PMThe other organization is CANN, the Community Airport Newcomers Network. They are a group that works within the Vancouver airport to assist immigrants with their arrival in Canada. They have the ability to work on both sides of the security gate to greet newcomers to Canada, deal with language barriers, assist with navigation to the appropriate Customs and Immigration offices to procure Permanent Resident cards and help with baggage claims. We are very fortunate to also have friends outside the airport who will be able to help the family with transportation and accommodation, since they will have at least one overnight in Vancouver. But it is wonderful to know that there are people familiar with the inner workings of the international airport and the refugee arrival experience who will meet the family as they deplane and help them through it.

And imagine: they will finally stop being refugees the moment they obtain their Permanent Resident cards at YVR. The children have been refugees since birth, and the father and mother since 1999 and 2000 respectively. What a momentous passage that will be for them! They will have all the rights of Canadian citizens from that moment forth except the right to hold a Canadian passport and the right to vote.

Readers may have noticed that throughout these updates we have been careful not to refer to the family by name or give specific details that would identify them. This is because if refugees in the slum where they live are known to have connections in the west and/or imminent resettlement plans, they can be targeted for extortion by security forces. The paperwork they must carry, along with the ubiquity of smartphones, can make it very easy to quickly search for such details. The last thing we want is to jeopardize their safety and security during this final week!

Sponsoring, welcoming and supporting refugees in the Slocan Valley area of BC