At long last, the first refugee family from Iraq should be coming to Fort Frances by mid-November.
“They have received information from the Canadian embassy that they will be coming in the middle of November,” Kathy Mueller of the “Families for Families” committee told the Times on Friday.
“We will be so excited to finally get them here and get them set to start their new life,” she enthused.
“But I’m nervous,” Mueller also admitted. “It’s been two years.”
Volunteers have arranged for nearly everything for the arrival of the family of six, consisting of a father, mother, a teen daughter, and three sons.
Mueller noted landlord Chris McKinnon has been “more than accommodating” and renovated an apartment for the family, which includes three bedrooms, a new bathroom, kitchen, living room, and a backyard.
It’s also centrally located so it is close to Safeway, the Memorial Sports Centre, churches, the clinic, and other amenities.
She added the committee got most of the furnishings from estates, which means whole rooms of furniture will match.
The upholstery even has been steam-cleaned.
Beds were donated and the committee bought several new mattresses. As well, the Catholic Women’s Leagues in Fort Frances and Emo held
“kitchen and bathroom showers.”
“They got mostly all-new towels, dishes, cutlery, everything,” Mueller remarked.
“We used some of the things that were given to us that were in good shape,” she noted.
“But for the most part, they have lots of new stuff.”
Mueller added the committee has been working to offer as pleasant a welcome as possible, and has strived to make the new home “a happy space” for them.
“Myra Mainville, she repainted some of the furniture so it would be cheerful,” she said.
“And the quilting group in town made quilts for their beds, each handmade with love.
“We went into the apartment and everybody chipped in,” Mueller added. “We re-cleaned things and got everything ready.
“The beds have new pillows.
“People have really pitched in to help make the space a welcoming space,” she reiterated.
Mueller said they’ll also be getting the family a TV, which will help them learn English, as well as a computer, Internet service, and mobile phones.
The committee also will have to get the family members other required government documents, such as social security numbers and OHIP.
Last but not least, they’ll have to get them food and clothes.
Since they don’t know what the family members will have with them, what their clothing sizes are, and what they like to eat, they’ll have to wait for them to arrive to help them in those areas.
“When they come, they’ll have someone from Thunder Bay who will act as an interpreter for us for a couple of weeks so that they can become more comfortable in their surroundings,” Mueller said.
This man from Thunder Bay, who originally hails from Iraq, as well, knows the father of the family, Bashar.
Mueller added she’s heard that when refugees come to Canada, they can be shy at first. As such, any plans for a community welcome will be put on hold until the family has more time to adjust to a whole new world.
“We need to see what they would like; maybe they’d like some anonymity–which is going to be really difficult in Fort Frances,” Mueller conceded.
“We don’t know. We’ll have to see.”
The family currently is living in Beirut, Lebanon and being from Iraq, they’ve likely been through a fair amount of trauma, Mueller reasoned.
“We don’t understand that,” she stressed. “We’re here trying to pick out things that would look nice on their walls.”
Mueller said the community has been very generous over the past two years, and “Families for Families” is not asking for more help.
But if people do want to do something more for the family, donations of gift cards from Walmart and Safeway for clothing and food would be most welcome.
Contact the Knox United Church office at 274-4543 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or St. Mary’s Church parish (274-5233).
Looking ahead, “Families for Families” is waiting for a second refugee family to be cleared to come here.
The second Iraqi family has completed all of its immigration requirements and currently is undergoing background checks.
Mueller recently learned the mother of the second family is the sister of Bashar, meaning the two families are related.
“That will be wonderful when they get here; they will have family,” she remarked.