Syrians gather to say thanks to Langley community

Some new residents struggling with transportation, accommodation but all are grateful to finally have a safe place to live

Syrian refugees painted their faces with Canadian flags on Saturday and sang O Canada, as the community of new immigrants gathered to say thank you to Langley and tell their stories. Despite their joy at feeling safe and welcome, the group has had some difficulty with transportation and accommodation.

One hundred and sixty Syrian immigrants, most of whom are youth and children, have now been connected with their new home in Langley.

Through the efforts of the Langley Community Services Society (LCSS) and their community partners, the immigrants are receiving ongoing support with their relocation and settlement challenges, and on Saturday they gathered to say thank you to Langley and to Canada.

At an event organized by the LCSS, the Syrians expressed their appreciation for the welcome they have received since they arrived here.

The program opened with the Syrian children singing O Canada for invited guests, and included presentations from three Syrian representatives.

The speakers told their own stories and expressed the need for more sponsors. When families were leaving the refugee camps in Lebanon, there was a lot of confusion and names were left off numerous lists.

As a result, many of the refugees were forced to leave family members behind. One woman had to leave her young daughter.

Mary Tanielian, Manager of Human Resources and External Relations reported that this is having an effect on the woman’s mental health. “She has been in hospital a number of times,” said Tanielian.

While the event was an opportunity to say thank you, it was also a chance to express some frustration.

Like many of their Langley counterparts, they are also facing challenges using public transportation. Through an interpreter they reported that while they are deeply appreciative of having the opportunity to live in Canada, there have also been some difficulties.

One example is the Fraser Valley’s transportation system. The majority of the refugees have been connected with a family doctor through the efforts of Langley Division of Family Practice, but in the case of specialist appointments, the patients must commute to Vancouver and Burnaby.

One woman, Alia, must travel to Vancouver General Hospital with her two visually impaired daughters. The trip takes about two hours each way.

The refugees agreed that they love Langley and their new home in Canada.

Despite the problems of housing large families together, the Syrians reported that they feel safe here in their homes and neighbourhoods —  a huge contrast to the war-torn region they left behind.

In some cases, however, the housing is not adequate for those who are disabled.

One man who uses a wheelchair has been housed with his family in an apartment building without an elevator, effectively rendering him housebound.

A release from LCSS representatives stated: While these concerns are requiring priority attention, Syrian representatives want the Canadian Government and local community to know their gratitude for the doors that have opened to bring them freedom and new life.

Representatives of all three levels of government were on hand and pledged to continue in their efforts to assist the refugees overcome the challenges they are facing in a new country.

“Our community and our country welcome you with open arms. You have experienced horrific events that led you to fleeing your homes. Know that you are safe  and welcome  in Canada,” said Cloverdale-Langley City MP, John Aldag.

“Welcome to your new home.”

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