For the third time in less than a year, the West Kootenay Friends of Refugees joined other supporters to celebrate the reunion of another family, separated by war and the need to leave their home country.

Last Friday, a group of about 20 friends bearing signs and flags gathered at the Castlegar airport for another happy reunion.  Cheers went up as Rahaf Zwayne, her brother Amr and father Saad crossed the tarmac.  Over two years ago, Melva and Ian Scott of Fruitvale privately sponsored Rahaf, after a chance meeting in a souvenir shop in Istanbul led to an online friendship. Rahaf and her family had left Damascus for Turkey when war made it too dangerous to stay.

After Rahaf arrived in Canada, she and the Scotts began working to arrange for her father Saad and brother Amr to come to Canada.  Ian Scott completed reams of paperwork and with help from the West Kootenay Friends of Refugees, the musical trio La Cafamore, the Visac Gallery and dozens of local supporters, funds were raised to help pay for their travel and settlement costs. (No financial support is provided by the government to privately sponsored refugees.) However, with permanent residency now in place, all three family members are looking forward to working hard to contribute to their new country.

Earlier this year, Rahaf Zwayne completed a two-year diploma program in Hotel and Resort Management at Selkirk College and is now working two jobs in Nelson, where the family hope to live. She still has the dream of someday being able to return to her home country of Syria to help rebuild, but for now the focus is on helping her brother and father settle in, find work and locate a place to live together in Nelson.  If you are able to help with any of these requirements, please call 250-352-76-zero-zero.

In November (2017) Gidewen Melake arrived to join his family after being separated from them for seven years.  In June, the family of KoKo Latt opened their home to a cousin who had been living as a UN refugee in Malaysia for even longer.