Meet Aisha, Faten and Mouhmad: Syrian family settles into Cowichan Bay
CTV Vancouver Island
Published Thursday, December 10, 2015 7:14PM PST
Last Updated Thursday, December 10, 2015 7:20PM PST
A family of Syrian refugees who fled their war-torn country and beat the odds to arrive on Vancouver Island is sharing their powerful story.
Nine-year-old Mouhmad Alnaddaf, his mother Faten Dekhan, 29, and her mother Aisha Jafar, 58, met with a roomful of reporters in their new home of Cowichan Bay on Thursday.
The family was flown to Victoria thanks to the sponsorship of the Mill Bay Baptist Fellowship, and finally arrived in the small town on Dec. 7.
Speaking through a translator, they described their long, arduous journey to Canada.
“Basically, they ran away from one spot to another spot,” the translator said when asked how the family survived in war-torn Syria.
Several years ago, Faten’s husband was killed in a bombing in their home country.
She and her son and mother then escaped to Lebanon, where they waited years for a refugee placement from the United Nations.
Faten and Aisha, both widows, were overwhelmed with emotion when asked what it was like to leave Syria.
“Of course, what you say is a difficult question,” said the translator. “[Faten] lost her dad and her husband in that time. Her dad, he had a heart attack and then her husband died in a bombing.”
She said the family is looking forward to a new start in Cowichan Bay.
“The first feeling [Faten] got was frightened. She was afraid,” she said. “After that…she felt safe, very safe. She is hoping she’ll be adopted into the culture here, and she is wishing the community of Canada will help her in her journey here.”
Lynn Weaver of the Cowichan Intercultural society said the family has adapted surprisingly well given the circumstances.
“It seems like it’s going really smoothly, better than we could’ve expected really, given what they’ve been through in recent times and what’s going on overseas,” said Weaver.
The family is living with a temporary host family, but sponsors are hopeful a permanent housing solution could be found for them as soon as tomorrow.
As for Mouhmad, he will be attending school soon for the first time. Asked how he feels about coming to Vancouver Island, the smiling nine-year-old simply replied, “happy.”
Faten, who became a nurse to help injured soldiers in Syria, said she hopes to return to school as well to once again become a nurse, this time in Canada.
The family will be supported for up to a year by the federal government and their sponsors.
Aisha Jafar, 58, Faten Dekhan, 29 and Mouhmad Alnaddaf, 9, pose for a picture in Cowichan Bay after a long journey from Syria. Dec. 10, 2015. (CTV Vancouver Island)
Aisha Jafar, 58, Faten Dekhan, 29 and Mouhmad Alnaddaf, 9, arrive at Victoria International Airport. Dec. 7, 2015. (Mill Bay Baptist Fellowship)