Refugee families to reunite here

Duane Hicks

Just in time for Christmas, a second Iraqi refugee family is due to arrive here next Thursday (Dec. 21).
The local “Families for Families” committee has started getting ready for the family, which consists of Rami Canoon, his wife, Fivyan Shamoon, and their two daughters, Fbaana, six, and two-year-old Oryana.
Committee member Kathy Mueller said the family is scheduled to arrive in Thunder Bay on Dec. 20, but it’s likely they’ll stay overnight there before being driven to Fort Frances the following day.
She added the Al-Zeebaree family, which arrived here late last month, is excited for the Canoon family to join them; after all, Rami is the brother of Julia Al-Zeebaree, the mother of that first family.
“They’re really happy for them,” Mueller noted.
“I think they’re [the Al-Zeebarees] really feeling safe here, and they’ve been overwhelmed by people’s generosity and the love and care and attention that they’re getting,” added Mueller.
“You’d be happy for anybody who would be welcomed that way.”
While it was hoped the second refugee family would be here sooner than later, Mueller admitted them coming during the holiday season had made it “a little challenging” for volunteers to get everything ready.
“But having said that, it’s wonderful for them to be in Canada for Christmas,” she remarked.
Yesterday, a team of volunteers went to a storage locker at Crozier Warehouse and moved household furnishings and items to the Canoon family’s apartment in the central part of town.
Mueller believes the committee has most of what it needs to get the new family all set up, but personal items like clothing will have to wait until the family gets here and their sizes are known.
“We are just going to see what their needs are once we get everything set up,” she explained.
Meanwhile, the Al-Zeebaree family–consisting of father, Bashar, mother, Julia, 19-year-old daughter, Sarah, and sons, Fadi, 18, Michael, 10, and Philip, five–have been keeping busy over the past few weeks.
The family attended the Christmas cantata at the Townshend Theatre on Dec. 3, and also has attended Muskie girls’ and boys’ hockey games.
Julia and Sarah went to the C.W.L. bazaar on Nov. 19 while the whole family attends mass at St. Mary’s Catholic Church each Sunday.
Committee members have been taking them out for coffee, and Dale Fortes of Boston Pizza even has contacted Mueller and offered the Al-Zeebaree family a free meal there.
Michael is attending St. Francis School while his younger brother, Philip, is going to St. Michael’s.
The older family members have started playing badminton on Friday evenings, and the family has begun utilizing the Memorial Sports Centre here.
“Someone has given them a membership for that, which is wonderful because they live just a couple of blocks away,” noted Mueller.
“Because they can’t speak the language yet, it provides good, healthy activities for them to do,” she added.
“And since they’re not used to the cold weather–they have an aversion to it, actually–it’s somewhere warm for them to be active.”
The family also has used the Fort Frances Public Library quite a bit, and will be starting their English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at the Valley Adult Learning Association here in January.
“We’ve had a couple people volunteer to help them with learning how to read,” Mueller said.
One person even dropped off a Christmas tree–complete with decorations–at their apartment.
“I went to see them yesterday and their Christmas tree is beautiful,” Mueller remarked.
“Mine isn’t up but theirs is,” she chuckled.
The family also has been to the Northwestern Health Unit office here to get their shots updated and dental work done. Bashar went to see Dr. Robert Lidkea and ended up getting new prescription glasses.
“There are people who have been really, really generous,” said Mueller, noting several individuals even have donated as much as a $1,000, or in one case, $5,000, to help out the newly-arrived Al-Zeebaree family.
“Everywhere we go, people welcome them,” she added, noting when she took Bashar and Julia out for coffee the other day at Tim Hortons, Mayor Roy Avis approached them and welcomed them to the community.
“People have been so good,” enthused Mueller, adding the family truly appreciates the warm welcome they’ve received and the generosity of the community.