Abyot, who was a truck driver in Ethiopia, speaks some English, enough that he and Karen were able to bond over their love of English football. We’re all looking forward to helping Abyot settle into his new life in Canada. We’ll have more to share as we get to know Abyot better.
Welcome Abyot! TEEWP’s first sponsored refugee has arrived.
A little over a year ago, the Toronto East End Welcome Project announced that we had been matched with three refugees: A young married couple from Syria and a single man from Ethiopia.
We’re thrilled to say that on Tuesday June 6, 41-year-old Abyot from Ethiopia finally arrived in Canada! He landed at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, where TEEWP members Kelly Lynne Ashton, Karen Somerville and Hope Smith were waiting to greet him.
Abyot was understandably tired after a flight that took him from Kenya to Switzerland to Toronto, so Kelly Lynne, Karen and Hope took him directly to the temporary apartment that TEEWP had found for him on Air BnB.
Meanwhile, it now looks like the Syrian couple we had hoped to privately sponsor won’t be coming to Canada.
Their story has taught us how complicated life remains for Syrians stuck in the in-between world of refugees. While the couple was preparing for their move to Canada, the man’s father fell ill. He and his wife stayed in Lebanon to care for his father in his final months. Now, the man’s widowed mother needs his support. She can’t come to Canada and he doesn’t feel he can leave her in Lebanon, a dilemma he and his wife have explained to TEEWP members over Skype. Last month, the couple let expire the visa that would have allowed them to move to Canada.
While the Syrian couple’s visa was still in effect, our hands were tied. We had committed to privately sponsoring them and we needed to have the money in place in case they decided to follow through with their original plan. Now that their visa has expired, our partners at the United Church have offered us the opportunity to sponsor three other refugees: A pair of brothers, ages 19 and 20, from Syria, and a single woman from the Congo. We jumped at the opportunity. After all our time and effort, we’re eager to help anyone who needs us.
The Syrian brothers, who already have friends and family in the Toronto area, aren’t expected to arrive for at least 10 months. The woman from the Congo could be here in the next few months, although the date remains uncertain. Whenever she arrives, she’ll need plenty of financial and emotional help. She speaks neither English nor French and from the little we know of her story, it sounds like her life has been extraordinarily difficult. We hope we can help her to start a new and better life in Canada.
In the meantime, our supporters may be wondering why TEEWP doesn’t simply use the money we’ve already raised to help more of the Syrians who came here as government-assisted refugees and lack groups like ours to act as surrogate families and financial backstops. We’d love to, but we can’t. The partnership we’ve entered into with the United Church (our Sponsorship Agreement Holder) stipulates that the money we’ve raised (and for which they have issued tax receipts) must go to refugees we sponsor ourselves, as we have in the case of Abyot.
TEEWP has raised some money separately for the Al Cheblis, the government-assisted Syrian family we’ve been helping informally since February of 2016. That money came in handy recently when we learned that Mohamed, the family’s father, needed $700 for special glasses to help correct an eye condition that was making it difficult for him to read.
He and his wife Ilham and their children are otherwise doing well. Mohamed’s English is coming along nicely. He’s hoping to pass level 8 by the end of the summer before applying to a college social work program. The family welcomed a healthy baby boy, Malik, at the end of last year. They moved into a larger, two-bedroom apartment in their Main and Gerrard building. The four older children are loving school. They’re preparing for another season of soccer, swimming and day camps this summer. We would like to extend a huge thank you to Ready, Set, Play, which covered the cost of the children’s soccer registration and swim classes and to the city’s parks and recreation department, which kindly made arrangements for the children to register for summer camp before their Welcome Package subsidy was renewed. We’d also like to thank Ryerson University and the YMCA, who, along with Toronto Parks and Ready, Set, Play, have made it possible for all four children to attend seven weeks of summer day camps for free.