The Friends Of Refugees committee from St. Andrew’s United Church is excited and honoured to announce the arrival of our sponsored Burmese Karen (K’rin) family on November 26 from the Umpium refugee camp on the Thai side of the Border with Myanmar (Burma).
Since January the committee has been working through the process of sponsoring a refugee family. Operating on the principle that a refugee is a refugee no matter from where, a family was chosen that we believed would be a good fit for Sault Ste. Marie and would have a good chance of success in adapting to a new way of life in Canada.
They arrived bewildered, hungry, jet lagged and exhausted after a two day journey from the other side of the world. Since then there has been a whirlwind of learning unfamiliar language, technologies, financial systems, bus routes, shopping and food. Yet they are rising to the challenge and eagerly embracing school, skating, bike riding, sledding, Christmas concerts and Sunday worship at St. Andrew’s. Today they have met with Sault Ste. Marie MP Terry Sheehan and with Mayor Provenzano.
Coming from a very different culture and climate the family of six – mom, dad and four children aged 2 to 10 – will face many challenges and a long learning curve. The children are already enrolled in school and daycare while mom and dad have started ESL (English language) training. They have been well served in their adjustment to North American lifestyle by our two WUSC sponsored Karen student translators from Sault College and Algoma University. They have also been supported by the community of Karens from Soo Michigan who were on hand to welcome the family at the airport and who have done several border runs to visit and to provide emergency assistance, cultural advice and translation.
Hats off to the residents of the Soo who have generously welcomed the family with financial donations, clothing, furnishings, toys, equipment and especially with their smiles and well wishes. Even our extraordinarily warm December has cooperated by easing the shock of adjusting to the cold. Kudos especially go to the staffs at Northern Heights, Northland Adult Learning Centre and Orchard Park Daycare for the special efforts they have made in providing special training, programs, resources and preparation to welcome our newcomers. Thanks also go to the staff of the Sault Community Career Center (SCCC) who in their new role as Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s official service provider have helped us through the labyrinth of government documentation. Finally, we salute the efforts of the Local Immigration Partnership (LIP) and several of its member groups in helping coordinate ours and other emerging refugee sponsorship initiatives in the Soo.
The parents are now involved in intensive language training to prepare them for entry into the work force. They are anxious to show their gratitude by contributing to Canada’s economy and cultural fabric.
We are looking forward to sharing with them the Joy of their first Canadian Christmas and a season full of winter fun.