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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.

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On May 30th an excited group of relatives and supporters gathered at the Castlegar airport to await the arrival of Bawi Vum. He looked happy to meet everyone after his lengthy journey from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, especially the relatives he hasn’t seen for years.

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Bawi Vum ,whose Christian name is Daniel, has come to join his cousin Lun Lun San, her husband Ko Ko Latt and their two sons in their home in Rossland. (They were the first people sponsored by the WKFoR group in December 2013.) This hard working family has been saving for years so they could privately sponsor their cousin – doing gardening, housecleaning, dishwashing at a local restaurant and, until recently, working the garbage truck.

 

Ko Ko Latt, Lun Lun San and Bawi Vum fled the oppressive regime in their home country of Myanmar and spent considerable time in Malaysia as refugees with few rights. Lun Lun San met and married Ko Ko Latt there and their eldest son was born in Kuala Lumpur.  When asked why they left Myanmar, Bawi Vum summed it up succinctly by saying, “When the soldiers came, bad things always happened.”

 

Born into a Christian family, the three adults learned to speak some English in Bible School when they were young. Like other newcomers to Canada, they are now able to access support in learning more from the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy. They also receive help from members of the WKFoR, who tutor them in their home.

 

We are all looking forward to getting to know Bawi Vum and wish him well in his new community.  He is eager to find a job and wants to become a contributing member of society.  His family and the West Kootenay Friends will be there to help every step of the way.

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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

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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

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: http://news.yahoo.com/horrific-abuses-systematic-widespread-eritrea-un-probe-085934386.html

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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 (km@2cats.net) or call 250-362-3319