It was a day many members of the community have been looking forward to for some time. On Saturday, 22 government sponsored Syrian refugees arrived at the Prince George airport.
Two family’s of seven and one family of eight will now call Prince George home.
Settlement Worker Cal Malena says the IMSS has been anxiously awaiting their arrival.
“The initial things are just to get them housing and get them oriented. They’re going to be in a hotel for a while and then we have apartments for them lined up over the next couple of weeks. We need to get furniture for their housing and then the kids have to go to school. We have screening for their medical and dental and vision.”
It was a campaign promise of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada. While refugees have arrived in urban centres around the country, these are the first government sponsored refugees to arrive in Prince George.
Among the greeters were Syrian families who have arrived in the city over the last few months. Sarah Tohme’s family came in early January and were sponsored by the Westwood Church. She didn’t waste any time immersing herself into the community. Now she’ll be there to help the newcomers settle into life in Prince George.
“I’ve been in their place before, I came the same way and everything so I feel what they feel. They are people from Syria so I’m ready to help them through here in Canada. My role is helping IMSS to help the families settle. And mainly I’m a translator because I’m from Syria too.”
The city’s newest residents got an emotional welcome from Mayor Lyn Hall.
“This is your new home and please accept Prince George as your new home and you’re among friends and you’re among people who want to help and give you every opportunity to succeed.”
The IMSS has committed to taking at least ten families. But as the organization’s Baljit Sethi explains, the city is capable of welcoming even more.
“We can take 20 families, 30 families, no problem because we have a big heart and we are waiting for new people to come to Prince George.”