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


Interact refugee pic

Students from the RSS and J.L.Crowe Interact Club met on Wednesday, Feb. 24 with Christine DeMarco, of the West Kootenay Friends of Refugees.

Ms DeMarco, who taught several of these students as kindergarteners described  the work of the WKFoR and gave an update on the two families who have been sponsored so far.

The WKFoR is eagerly awaiting the arrival of a Syrian family, who should be flying in to the Trail airport shortly.  The Interact club had placed donation jars in RSS and J.L. Crowe and were pleased to present five hundred and fifty dollars to help with the resettlement of the new refugee family.

The students at L’ecole des Sept Sommets, the local French School, have been busy raising money and creating welcome materials to be displayed for the Abdin family in their new home. The family is due to arrive any day!

Refugee concert fundraiser Feb 13.png


IMG_8190  A big thank you to Rossland’s United Church Women who baked pies so they could donate $1000 to the WKFoR group to help with sponsorship.

WKFoR welcomes any support from groups near and far to help reach our goal of continued sponsorship of refugee families in need. Please get in touch!

29950traildailytimesSubmitted1stXmas2New Canadian families reflect on Christmas traditions past and present— Image Credit: Courtesy Of Sonia Tavares, CBAL


Rossland’s new Canadian families reflect with the Trail Times on their holiday season in snowy Rossland:


Canada’s national newspaper profiles two ski towns sponsoring Syrian refugee families (Rossland and Whistler)

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.