Last Thursday, Safia, a Palestinian mother of six, had flowers in her hands. She was waiting for her son and his family in the arrival hall of Victoria International Airport and their flight was 10 minutes late.
They had not seen each other in eight years.
Safia and her youngest son Saddam was sponsored by members of Christ Church Cathedral three years ago, and have been adjusting to life in Victoria, with Saddam getting his driver’s license and Safia learning English. After years of waiting, another son, Abdul, and his family would soon join her.
As she waited, congregation members said “hello” to her and brought gifts with them — some blocks, a toy truck, and a Sesame Street book of ABCs. They were meant for Abdul’s young son.
At around 12:40 p.m., Abdul, his wife and son came through the doors.
Joan Duckett, of the Cathedral’s Refugee Sponsorship Program, said the whole family were living in Iraq, when Safia’s husband was killed. The family was split apart, with Safia and her Saddam going to Syria, and Abdul and his family going to Indonesia. A group of about a dozen core members raised enough money to cover the family’s expenses for a year, putting together accommodation, furnishings, “anything anyone moving to a new country would need for the year. It’s up to us to make sure that that’s all in place.”
Abdul is an accountant but has worked in public relations, translation, and clerical work. His wife is an early childhood educator.
“Until now, I can’t believe it fully, because I’ve been waiting for this for a really long time,” he said.
Duckett said they would let the newcomers catch up with their mother for the weekend, and get busy on Monday filling out the necessary paperwork to acquire a Social Insurance Number, health coverage, English classes, and other necessities for life in Canada.
Christ Church Cathedral has been sponsoring refugees for years. As Duckett explained: “We were privileged to be born here. Many people in the world aren’t; there are 14 million refugees. This is our Christian duty, and we’re very fortunate to be able to do this for them.”
In the years they’ve been apart, Abdul said he and his mother have missed out on a lot. They have been communicating online, but “it’s not like face-to-face.” He said he will take a short break to catch up with his family, but he is eager to start his new life.
“I hope I’ll be useful for the new community I’ll be part of,” he said.