Revelstoke for Refugees waiting for final paperwork to bring Syrian family to the Canada

Laura Stovel

Revelstoke for Refugees

It is mid-morning and my phone pings, telling me that I have a new message on WhatsApp, the phone app most used by friends overseas. It is a greeting from Amal Alsowwan, the mother of the family of four that Revelstoke for Refugees is sponsoring to come to our community. Every once in a while, Amal sends a greeting, often followed by an emoji kiss. I reply in kind, asking how her family is doing and sharing some news from Revelstoke. Although Amal does not speak English and I don’t speak Arabic we can talk from time to time using Google translate.

READ MORE: New Syrian refugee family chosen for Revelstoke

Amal, her husband Ferhan, and their two teenage sons, Hamzah and Harmoodi, fled Syria during the war and have been waiting patiently in Amman, Jordan since before Revelstoke for Refugees even existed. Waiting in limbo is hard. The boys are growing up and they cannot feel settled or really plan for the future but the family tries to make the best of it.

The Alsowwans have good friends, Hannes and Miemmi van der Westhuisen and their children who are relief workers from South Africa and help them out a lot, providing friendship, assistance and financial support. Revelstoke for Refugees members are in touch with Hannes and Miemmi who kindly translate Skype conversations and share news of the family.

Revelstoke for Refugees is a broad-based community group that formed in the fall of 2015 when Syrian refugees were making headlines and community groups across the country rushed to sponsor families. Initially led by Rana Nelson and joined by dozens of interested Revelstokians, the group responded to the federal government’s commitment to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of January 2016. We formed a committee to oversee the process.

The Alliance Church, as an institution that was pre-approved for sponsorship, kindly stepped up to become our Sponsorship Agreement Holder. With the help of the knowledgeable folks at the Christian and Missionary Alliance (the Alliance Church’s sponsorship experts) in Toronto we applied to sponsor a Syrian family of seven. Unfortunately, the family backed out of the sponsorship so we chose another family, the Alsowwans, and reapplied to sponsor them in April 2017.

While we waited for the application to be processed, we learned about another route for sponsorship: the Blended Visa Sponsorship Program. This route is faster because the refugees on the list have been preapproved.

We applied to sponsor a young gay man, Sam, who had experienced persecution at home because of his sexual orientation. Incredibly, Sam arrived three months later, in mid-December 2017.

Sam is fluent in English, very artistic, and made friends in Revelstoke. He enjoyed working at Birch and Lace Hair Salon and participated in two art exhibits, including a one-day solo exhibit held at the United Church. Toward the end of his stay, he developed a love of hiking.

But Sam missed the diversity of city life. In July he moved to another city and is thriving there. He has good friends in and out of the gay community, a good shared house, lots of support and is working full time. He talks about coming back to Revelstoke to visit.

We have been told that the Alsowwans are in the final stages of processing so are waiting patiently for news that they may arrive soon.

Revelstoke for Refugees would like to thank all those who contributed to the sponsorship fund and who supported Sam during his stay here. We also thank Kristina and Reilly Geidt, Nadine and Stan Smith and Vivian Mitchell for working with us to make their homes available in anticipation of the family’s arrival or for Al Ashaoush’s stay. And finally, but not least, we thank the Revelstoke Alliance Church for their solid sponsorship support.

To join our e-mail list or for more information, please e-mail Laura Stovel at lstovel0@gmail.com or find us on Facebook.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Revelstoke for Refugee committee members (from left to right) Anita Hallewas, David Cooke, George Brodie, Keith McNab, Lilli MacFarlane and Brodie Johnson skyped with Amal, Ferhan and Harmoody Alsowwan (center and back) on Friday. The skype call was facilitated by their friends Miemmi and Hannes van der Westhuizen (on the ends). Hamzah Alsowwan, the eldest son, was away during the call.

Just Posted

Okanagan home sales increase over last month, still below 2019 numbers: OMREB

Sales, listings see increase over May’s numbers but dwindle in comparison to 2019

Snowmobiling injects $30M yearly into Revelstoke economy: study

The sport also supports roughly 600 jobs locally

Revelstoke teen organizing protest supporting Black Lives Matter movement

Protesters are asked to wear a mask if they attend

Meet the new director at Revelstoke Railway Museum

Jim Cullen has worked in museums for over two decades

B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

Four senior home outbreaks also declared over, eight still active

Princeton RCMP sergeant kills cougar threatening residential neighborhood

An RCMP officer shot and killed a cougar, close to a residential… Continue reading

Pilot project approved: Penticton to allow alcohol in outdoor spaces

For almost two hours, council debated the proposed pilot project, before eventually passing it 4-2

Drugs, machete found in truck with stolen plate driven by Salmon Arm man

Chase RCMP arrest driver and have vehicle towed

RCMP, coroner investigate murder-suicide on Salt Spring Island

Two dead, police say there is no risk to the public

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

Top cop calls video of Kelowna Mountie striking suspect ‘concerning’

A video allegedly shows a Kelowna Mountie striking a man several times

B.C.’s Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics goes virtual

The annual event partnering RCMP with Special Olympians is dramatically altered by COVID-19

Most Read