Refugee Sponsors Welcome Syrian Family To Canada

CBC - Khaled and Aveer Sultan and their six young children arrived at the Ottawa International Airport Tuesday to cheers, tears and hugs from their sponsors, who pinned tiny maple leaves to the newcomers' lapels. 

The sponsors will act as guides, translators and an extended family to the Sultans as they adapt to their new life in Brockville.

"This family is like my brother, like my family," said sponsor Omar Alahmed.

The five sponsor families have their own worries about relatives left behind in precarious circumstances, but say they decided to open their arms to strangers because of the way Canadians welcomed them. 

"Canadian people did not know me, but they helped me," said sponsor Ahmad Alkafrei, who arrived as a refugee in January 2017.

The sponsorship program the families are taking part in is administered by the Refugee Hub at the University of Ottawa and funded by two charitable groups, The Shapiro Foundation and The Giustra Foundation, as well as six other donors in Canada and the U.S.

Together, they're donating  $3.5 million dollars to 150 sponsor groups across the country to support the resettlement of 685 refugees, drawn from a list compiled by the United Nations.

Kailee Brennan, an outreach officer with the Refugee Hub, first met the families in August at a recruitment event in Brockville. They came hoping to bring their own relatives to Canada, Brennan said, but soon learned that's not how the program works.

"Of course, many of them had left family behind, and it's always so difficult to explain that." Brennan said.

After a prolonged discussion in Arabic, the translator, Brockville businessman Ahmad Khadra, declared the group had decided to open their arms to a family they didn't know.

"I told them, 'You are not a refugee anymore. You are now 100 per cent Canadian, and Canadians love to do something good,'" said Khadra, who came to Canada from Syria in 1995.

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