More than two years have passed since the Toronto East End Welcome Project (TEEWP) was born out of a desire to help welcome Syrian refugees to Canada. We’re still helping the Al Cheblis, a government-assisted refugee family who arrived in Toronto in the winter of 2016. We are also officially sponsoring two other refugees: Abyot, originally from Ethiopia, and Marie Leonie, originally from Congo.
On Saturday Nov. 25, we all gathered at Eastminster United Church on the Danforth for a pre-holiday potluck. There was plenty to celebrate, including the birth of Abyot’s daughter in Somaliland, where his wife remains until she can join him in Canada. Abyot and his wife named their daughter Caroline, after a TEEWP member who, along with her husband Denis, has been instrumental in helping Abyot to settle into his new life in Canada.
Marie Leonie is also doing well after her surprise landing in Toronto. While TEEWP members knew that Marie Leonie would be arriving some time in the summer, we didn’t know when. On July 12, our co-chair Karen received a frantic call: Marie Leonie was at Pearson International Airport. The original email notifying Karen that a refugee’s arrival was imminent had been sent to the wrong address. Karen fired off an urgent email to our group. Co-chair Kelly Lynne and Lianne leapt into action and drove to Pearson to pick up Marie Leonie.
Marie Leonie speaks Swahili and quite a bit of French, which helped her to build an especially strong rapport with the many French speakers in our group. Her English, meanwhile, is getting better by the day, and she is enjoying her English classes at Newcomer Women’s Services on the Danforth.
The Al Cheblis children are thriving. At the potluck party, oldest daughter Amal and oldest son Younes argued amicably about which of them would grow up to be a lawyer and which a doctor. Cheblis and Khadija were as feisty as ever. All four enjoyed goofing around on the church piano. Their baby brother Malek, who is almost one now, was less excited about the outing. He slept through the entire party.