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On Wednesday, Aug. 25th, Ruta Zaharias and her two sons Eyobed and Yonathan arrived at the Castlegar airport from Cairo, where they have been living for a year and a half, after escaping from Eritrea.  On hand to greet the family were members of West Kootenay Friends of Refugees. The group has been working for three years to bring refugee families to our area.

As a special surprise, two friends of Ruta’s, Salam and Helen, both now living in Nelson, were at the airport to welcome her to her new life.  These two women, also Eritrean refugees, were sponsored by a Nelson refugee support group this summer and have had a little time to figure out how things work in Canada.  Their presence was a comfort to Ruta and they accompanied her to her new home in Rossland for the first night.

Ruta left her home in Asmara, the capital city of Eritrea, after her husband disappeared and she felt unsafe.  After a difficult journey to Egypt, she was helped by an Orthodox Christian church group, while she applied to the UN High Commission for Refugees for official status. She then applied to Canada for Permanent Residency. Once she had been approved, her name and story were shared with sponsoring groups across the country, and the West Kootenay Friends were able to choose her (from hundreds of qualified applicants).

With Eyobed ready to start kindergarten next week and Yonathan eager to meet other children his age in the Strong Start program, Ruta has already been exploring the community, with the help of members of the West Kootenay Friends of Refugees group, figuring out the best way to walk to the school and the grocery store. They also enjoyed a day at Kootenay Lake visiting the cabin of Sue and Rick Greene.


There is a great need for Canadians to sponsor the thousands of refugees flooding out of countries where their lives are at risk, and, while the Rossland group feels that they can’t do much to address the larger issues, they can make a difference to this little family. For six months, Ruta will be receiving some government assistance as well as health care and child benefits and for the following six months she will be subsidized by the funds raised in Rossland over the past three years.

The West Kootenay Friends of Refugees would like to thank everyone who has contributed in any way to making our efforts successful.  If you would like to join the group or find out more about it, check out our website, or call Jan at 250-362-5289. We would love to help others learn how to sponsor refugees and would be very grateful for any donations – which can be done online.