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Greetings from old and new friends.

On Wednesday, Aug. 25th, 2015, Ruta Zakarias and her two sons Eyobed and Yonathan arrived at the Castlegar airport from Cairo, where they had been living for a year and a half, after escaping from Eritrea. The West Kootenay Friends of Refugees sponsored the single mother with help from many local donors.


In the three years since she arrived, Ruta has become a real Rosslander, coping with snow and cold while her kids have learned to cross country ski, skate and downhill.  She has been working to earn her high school diploma equivalency and master English while her boys have been attending RSS in kindergarten and grade one.  Her goal is to become a care aide.


Late in 2017, the family was reunited with Gidewen Melake, the boys’ father and Ruta’s husband.  He had been living in Uganda with relatives when he was able to locate Ruta and ask if it was possible to come to Canada to join his family.  It took some time and a lot of paperwork, but eventually the West Kootenay Friends were able to make it happen. Gidewen had hoped to get a job in Rossland, but when this didn’t happen, he decided to try the Lower Mainland, where members of the Eritrean community in that area offered to help him find work.


He has now rented an apartment near a school and the family is ready to reunite once more in Burnaby, near the Christian Orthodox Church and the Eritrean community that has been helping Gidewen get settled.  On Saturday, March 17th, Ruta and her boys will board a bus and head for their new home.  Thanks to the generosity of Rob LeRose of Home Goods, their possessions will follow in a truck.


While the members of the West Kootenay Friends of Refugees will miss Ruta, Yonathan and Eyobed, we wish them well in the next phase of their lives in Canada. I know that Ruta would like to thank everyone who has made her family feel welcome. She has received incredible support and encouragement from the local community in so many ways.


The WKFoR are still involved in supporting the applications of three individuals who are in the process of obtaining permission to come to Canada as refugees. Bawi Vum, in Kuala Lumpur and Amr and Saad Zwayne, in Istanbul, are awaiting approval and have begun the interview stage – which is a positive step.



Photo credit: Dave Cornelius

On Tuesday evening, January 31st, Rossland’s Harry LeFevre Square was filled with light from the many candles held in mittened hands by Rosslanders who turned out in the cold to show solidarity with Muslims everywhere and all others fleeing persecution, throughout the world. In the wake of the Quebec massacre and the US ban on travel by citizens of seven Muslim countries, members of the West Kootenay Friends of Refugees organized the vigil to give the community an opportunity to come together and show their feelings. Mayor Kathy Moore welcomed the crowd and spoke about the need for peace and understanding throughout the world to combat the hatred and violence that seem to lurk everywhere – even in peaceful Canada.

Prominent in the crowd were the San-Latt family, Aung Ko Ko, Lun Lun and their two children Samuel and David – Rossland’s first sponsored family, originally from Burma.  As well, Teysir Misto, father of our newest family (originally from Aleppo, Syria) spoke from the heart about his appreciation for the show of support for his family and the victims of the mosque shooting in Quebec. He made it clear, with the help of translator Hakim Aitami, that he is very happy to have brought his family to Canada. 
After a moment of silence to reflect on the reason for the gathering, Jill Peacock of the WKFoR thanked everyone for attending and invited the crowd to socialize around the bonfire.  Members of the Rossland Light Opera broke into song and people mingled and talked to friends and neighbors before walking home in the clear, cold night.


We are very excited to welcome a new family to Rossland. This is the third family that has settled in Rossland since the group started.

More news via local news outlets:

Rossland News

The Rossland Telegraph


Thank you to Mindful Mountain Yoga for their generous donation of $289 to the WKFoR.

Money and community awareness was raised through their Karma Yoga sessions.

Mindful Mountain Yoga is a warm and welcoming yoga studio in downtown Rossland.  They bring together yoga, mindfulness, and overall wellbeing through their classes and workshops. More information about the studio and their offerings is available on their website
MMY runs $5 Karma Yoga on Friday evenings  from 6-7pm.   Karma Yoga is their way of giving back to our community while making yoga more accessible to the community.  Each month a different local project or group is chosen to receive the donation collected throughout the month. 
You can follow the studio on Facebook (Mindful Mountain Yoga) and on Instagram (@mindfulmountainyoga).


A Fruitvale couple has sponsored Rahaf Zwayne from Syria. Learn about this incredible story here!


Welcome! A long-awaited and eagerly anticipated refugee family landed in Castlegar Tuesday afternoon. Zing Men and Tha Tin and their adorable baby have come from Burma (Myanmar) via the Canadian immigration offices in Singapore after spending more than four years in Malaysia. Lun Lun Sun, also a Burmese refugee who arrived to Rossland in 2014, sponsored by WKFoR, was on hand to greet them! Lun Lun will have an incredible opportunity to share what she has learned about living in the Kootenays (and Canada) over the last two years.

More on this story here!



Welcome Rahaf to Canada!

The West Kootenay Friends of Refugees, and especially Melva and Ian Scott of Fruitvale, were thrilled to welcome Rahaf Zwayne to Canada. The Scotts are privately sponsoring Rahaf who is originally from Syria and most recently Istanbul, Turkey.  The couple met Rahaf while they were travelling in Turkey and have been in almost daily contact with her via Skype ever since.

The WKFoR would like to thank all our donors, especially those who attended a concert in February held to assist the Scotts with this sponsorship. Rahaf will be a real asset to the group when the Abdin family arrives (soon, we hope), since she speaks perfect English as well as Arabic.

Five days after her arrival, she spoke at a student symposium in Nelson May 17th on refugees and climate change. Her heartfelt thanks and experience are shared in this short clip: Rahaf speech



This is a free event however proceeds from donations will be generously donated to the West Kootenay Friends of Refugees.

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In December 2012, students and staff from l’École des Sept-Sommets initiatied a fundraising campaign called « Vide tes poches ! » to help the two Burmese families who will soon be arriving in our community. « Vide tes poches » means empty your pockets, so this is what they did. They collected spare change and emptied the piggy banks!


It was also a good opportunity for students to learn some geography and a little history. Teachers had to answer many questions such as: Where is Myanmar? Where is Malaysia? What are refugee camps? Why is Canada committed to helping refugees?


The students were all very excited to see photos and learn the names of the families who will soon be part of our community. Everyone is looking forward to meeting them!


The younger students did a sorting activity to divide all the coins collected and a few of the older students helped with rolling and counting (Thanks to Alexander and Griffin!). l’École des Sept-Sommets, a small school of 40 students collected $367.01! The school would like to challenge other schools and groups in the community to beat that!

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Thanks to Shaw TV for helping to spread the word with a great segment on how the West Kootenay Friends of Refugees are planning to help make a difference in the lives of Burmese Refugees!