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Why do we want to sponsor a Syrian family? This brief yet powerful story shares a lot of why…


Linda J., a Syrian refugee, is photographed at her apartment on Dec. 3, 2015 in Baltimore, Md. (Photo by Ricky Carioti/ The Washington Post)

While this family came from another place, people can’t help but feel the human side of their experiences through the mother’s description of what happened. It’s clear that we are more alike than different and have an opportunity to offer comfort and peace to a family in need.



The Complete Canadian Experience

A Report from the Black Jack Tracks at Biathlon

By Sue Bushell


Just want to let you all know what a great day we had with our families today. Thanks to the wonderful help of Kate and Genevieve we got everyone up to Biathlon where the first JackRabbit session was.

Between the three of us we helped out with the ski bunnies as well as Michael-David and got Lun Lun San and Aung Ko Ko skiing. Ruta is happy to stick close to the kids. I think when we get out to Black Jack tracks, she will be more comfortable to go for a wee ski

All three boys seemed to just love it, and Yonathon only had one melt down and very few tears… which is amazing for him. Samuel is a natural skier and Eyebod was all smiles!!

Lun Lun San was the star skier of the day, and after I gave her a little lesson, she was doing a perfect diagonal stride, getting lots of glide, excellent double poling, a good snowplow down the steeper hill and an amazing “duckwalk” up the steep hills. She was just beaming and can’t wait to go skiing again.

Aung Ko Ko just loves it, but Michael-David (age 2) was not so happy in the little sled. Aung Ko Ko opted to play with Michael for much of the time, since he’s had several lessons and has a good idea about what to do. Next time we will make sure Aung Ko Ko gets lots of skiing time and he wants a lesson with me, so we will make sure we do that.

I have asked the club if we can use the club childrens’ ski polk/sled and they have kindly said we can use it without paying the rental fee. I think when Michael-David is all cozy in the lovely polk he will  be okay.

Then to my surprise, after the ski experience, Samuel and LLS still wanted to do the public skate at 6 pm in the Rossland arena … so we have all had a very fun and active day.


The West Kootenay Friends of Refugees has decided to sponsor a 3rd family, this time from Syria. Fundraising has begun and kicked off last night with a classical music fundraiser with Nicola Everton, Sue Gould and Noemie Kiss who donated their time and beautiful music for the house concert.

Forty-five guests enjoyed the hour long concert as well as socializing, eating and drinking for the cause. The group raised $4500 from the concert as well as additional donations from people that couldn’t attend taking the total to well over $5000.

This is a great start to keeping the funds going to meet the new goal of WKFoR to sponsor one refugee family a year to Rossland.

Thanks to the volunteers who coordinated the event, donated food and for those who came to enjoy the evening. Thank you to Rossland Beer Co who provided the beer for the fundraising event and a raffle door prize.

Anyone interested to get involved is welcome to join the next meeting, Wednesday, December 2nd, 7pm at the Seniors Hall in Rossland.


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.

Lun Lun San & Aung Ko Ko Latt

Lun Lun San & Aung Ko Ko Latt

In December, 2013, the West Kootenay Friends of Refugees (WKFoR) welcomed Lun Lun San, Aung Ko Ko Latt and their son Samuel to Rossland. Originally from Burma, they had been living in Malaysia where they were selected for sponsorship by a Canadian government program set up to assist refugees. After eighteen months, we are happy to report that things are going well for the San Latt family. In March of last year, the family increased by one with the birth of Michael David, a healthy and happy Canadian baby.

Aung Ko Ko and Lun Lun have been working to learn English with the help of four local teachers and an ESL program in Trail. As well, they have enjoyed trying out their language skills on the Rosslanders they meet at play school, Strong Start and the typical gathering places in town. Aung Ko Ko has found work at two local businesses and is happy to be supporting his family.

Now, thanks to the generosity of Rosslanders, the WKFoR have sufficient funds to begin helping another family come to our community. Our application has been accepted to sponsor an Eritrean single mother, Ruta, with two young sons, Yonathan and Eyobed, ages four and five. Her religion is listed as Christian and she speaks a language called Tigrinya.

Eritrea is a country infamous for horrifying human rights abuses and oppression. Ruta was forced to flee her home country after her husband disappeared. Surviving threats, violence and torture, she was able to make her way to a refugee camp near Cairo, where she is currently awaiting her trip to Canada. To find out more about Eritrea, google the country name and UN probe for a recent report from the United Nations.

Like the San Latts, this family will receive six months of support through a government program before they become financially dependent on the WKFoR. If all goes well, our new family could arrive in about a month, so the pressure is now on to find a suitable location for them to live and plan how to help them make a fresh start. If past experience is any indication, we will be offered many household items and will be keeping a master list so we can track what is needed. No donations of goods will be accepted now, but we will be asking for them when the family’s arrival date is established.

The WKFoR is a very small group of dedicated people with no special expertise, just a belief that we should try to make a difference where we can. Based in Rossland, we are actively seeking new members who can share the responsibility of making this new family welcome in our community. There are dozens of jobs that need to be done, from helping with transportation and shopping to just dropping in for a chat. We would welcome new members from Trail or Warfield.

For further information, and to volunteer, please contact: Jan Micklethwaite, 250-362-5289.

To read more about a UN investigation into the situation in Eritrea google:

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Three months into their new life in Canada, the San-Latt family has experienced the challenges and rewards that would face any of us if we relocated to a country far from home.  One very special event has taken place: On Monday, March 17, Lun Lun San and Aung Ko Ko Latt welcomed Michael David, their second son, into the world – a new Canadian citizen.  He is a brother to three-year-old Samuel, and a delight to the “aunties” (and a few “uncles”) who make up the West Kootenay Friends of Refugees (WKFoR). Michael David is a healthy boy weighing almost 9 pounds at birth.

In their first months in Rossland, the family has adapted well to the climate. They have discovered the joy of down jackets, mittens and warm boots while learning to shovel snow and navigate icy roads – skills not needed in Kuala Lumpur or Burma.  They have learned how to feed their wood stove to make it through our chilly winter nights and have welcomed the donations of firewood that have been dropped off.  The help of the Rossland Food bank, local merchants like Ronnie Mah, and the staff at Ferraros’ store is much appreciated.

Aung Ko Ko has been attending English classes at Selkirk College in Trail as well as working hard with the volunteer tutors in Rossland. Aung Ko Ko is taking the bus, figuring out the schedule and locations while practicing his new vocabulary whenever possible. Both he and Lun Lun San have been taking Samuel to the Strong Start program at the Rossland Summit School and are hoping that he will develop some friendships with children his age.  The family has enjoyed the Trail Aquatic Centre and Samuel is learning to swim.

Aung Ko Ko, looks forward to the day when he will have a job in the community. He has experience as a cook. He is very eager to begin supporting his family, although right now his main focus is learning to speak English. Aung Ko Ko’s main job now is washing diapers and preparing food for his family. Lun Lun San is trained as a hairdresser, and she will work when she can. They both have a variety of strong job skills.

Members of the WKFoR would like to thank all those who have made donations of money and personal and household items to make life a little easier for our first family of refugees.  We are still waiting to hear about our second family and will provide an update when possible. If you would like to donate or help out call Kathy Moore 362-3319 or visit our website to learn more:


After a long flight from Kuala Lumpur, the San family arrived at the Cranbrook airport on Dec. 10, and were welcomed by WKFoR chairperson Kathy Moore.  To facilitate their transition, arrangements were made for them to spend their first night with a Burmese family, who have been living in Cranbrook for some time and who had been sponsored by the East Kootenay Friends of Burma.


In preparation for the significant change in climate, Moore crammed her car with warm clothing and also provided a car seat for the youngest member of the family – a two and a half year old toddler.  On the morning of Dec. 11, the Sans were driven through the spectacular winter scenery of the Kootenay Pass to their new home in Rossland.


The local group of sponsors has been fundraising for two years and more recently working to set up a home for the new arrivals. They would like to thank all Rosslanders who have made donations of money and other items.  In an earlier press release we asked for an angel to step forward to help with a suitable living space for the San family and were fortunate that our request was answered for the first six months of their new life in Canada.  After that time period, the sponsor group will be looking for other accommodation. 


As the Sans settle into Rossland, the WKFoR group members will be visiting daily to help with language acquisition, budgeting, using the bus, shopping and all the routines of Canadian life. The goal is for this family to be integrated and independent by the end of a year.  Under the blended sponsorship program, the local group’s fundraising will be supplemented by social assistance from the federal government for the first six months. 


The San family fled ethnic and religious persecution in Burma based on their Christian beliefs and have been living for several years in Malaysia, a country that offers respite but no permanent asylum to refugees.  Burma was on the list of five countries identified by the Canadian government in 2013 as having refugees most in need and best able to resettle in Canada.


For more information or to offer help, please contact Kathy Moore ( or call 250-362-3319


The West Kootenay Friends of Refugees (WKFR) is putting on a Burger & Beer Fundraiser at the Steamshovel on Wednesday June 12th from 6-9. Tickets are $20, available at The Cellar. There will be music, prizes and draws!

WKFoR Fundraiser June 12th

group shot

The Chocolate and Wine Pairing fundraiser was a great success raising over $3,000!

Kate Mahoney provided a great overview of the refugee crisis globally and Kathy Moore shared information on the families we are sponsoring.

group shot 2

Trish from Mountain Nugget provided great content on the chocolate as well as pairing notes and the silent auction was filled with great items to bid on.


Thank you to Jennifer Vogel for organizing the event.  Hopefully this will become an annual fundraiser!

*All photos are from Dave Cornelius.

Come learn the ins and outs of chocolate with local chocolatier Trish Dyer of Mountain Nugget .

Date: Saturday, March 9th, 7-10 pm.

Location: Rouge Gallery in Rossland

Tickets: $30 and include 3 varieties of wine paired with chocolate, live music and appies.

There will also be a silent auction with many fabulous items and services offered from your favourite local businesses.

Only 50 tickets will be sold, purchase at the Rouge Gallery, Mountain Nugget or email to RSVP.

Ticket sales will close on March 2 2013.

This is event is a fundraiser for the West Kootenay Friends of Refugees.

Thanks to Columbia Basin Trust as well as the WKFoR volunteers for supporting this event!